Cuba farm technologies and soundwaves to combat invasives

After visiting Cuba several years ago, my father returned home with many great stories about island, the architecture and, yes, the cars. But the Cuban people are what impressed him the most. The educational level of the Cubans was especially mind-blowing for him.

I have since spoken with others that have traveled to Cuba and they tend to say the same thing. Cuban translators for tourists are actually trained physicists, geologists, you name it. So it probably should come as no surprise that there are plenty of agricultural researchers working on the island.

The trade embargo being lifted will certainly benefit U.S. agriculture and provide Cuba with quality food. But might the benefits to the U.S. farmer also be the flow of knowledge from Cuba to our shores?

Several stories – although one suspects they’re heavily propagandized -- have appeared lately touting Cuban agricultural products and breakthroughs.

At a recent tech fair in the Caribbean, the Cuban Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology showed off Gavac “an immunogen that provides for better control over ticks and tick-related infections in cattle,” according to the report. The product “reduces the use of chemical insecticides … while diminishing the risk of diseases being transmitted by ticks, improving an animal’s natural capacity to respond to an infection without increasing their resistance to treatment.”

Another of Cuba’s show ponies, HeberNem, is an “eco-friendly insecticide against roundworms, or nematodes.”

In other research news, Florida scientists are looking at the use of sound to combat the invasive psyllid that vectors “citrus greening” and is a huge threat to the U.S. citrus industry. While in its infancy and not about to stop the need for pesticide sprays anytime soon, the sound machine shows promise. It works like this: when a male psyllid emits a mating call, a device responds with a fake female callback. Eager to reach the female, the male then heads to the device where it becomes stuck on something akin to flypaper.

Tests in orange groves are yet to begin. However, in lab testing of the device, researchers have found the male insects are four times less like to locate a mate.  

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