Annual Report and Work Plan of MARA-CABI Joint Lab witnesses “outstanding progress” throughout 2023

30 March 2024, Beijing: The Annual Report and Work Plan, reviewed by the Steering Committee of the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs (MARA)-CABI Joint Laboratory for Biosafety, based in Beijing, has witnessed “outstanding progress” in all aspects of its research activities throughout 2023.

The 16th Joint Lab Steering Committee meeting, held at the Anhui Sub-centre for Agricultural Pest Control, heard the Joint Lab’s work to seek sustainable management approaches for eight major invasive crop pests and implement some development co-operation projects, which are progressing well.

This Steering Committee meeting was preceded by a Technical Advisory Group meeting, which convened at the Institute of Plant Protection (IPP), Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS) in Beijing.

Future focus areas and development of the Joint Lab

Here future focus areas of the Joint Lab, and technical details of several project implementation and development of the Joint Lab (including biological control agents to tackle invasive pests), were discussed and synthesized for reporting to the Steering Committee meeting.

The Steering Committee members and observers were warmly welcomed by Professor Zhang Zhengzhu, President of Anhui Academy of Agricultural Sciences, and his team.

Professor Zhang expressed his appreciation of the inclusion of the Institute of Plant Protection of his Academy into the Joint Lab as one of the four sub-centres. He was pleased that – thanks to the Joint-Lab platform – his Academy has become a partner for the EU-China Joint Action to Increase Development and Adoption of IPM Tools (ADOPT-IPM).

Key research for predicting pest occurrences

Scientists from the Joint Lab, for example, created a model which can estimate adult emergence periods and identify migratory populations of the yellow-spined bamboo locust from their ovarian development. The findings, published in the journal Frontiers in Physiology, provide a quick way to determine the population source as either “native” or “immigrant” from the phenotypic traits without dissection.

Research on the ovarian development of insect pests helps provide key information for predicting pest occurrences, and currently, there is very limited information about the reproductive system of the yellow-spined bamboo locust.

In total, 33 research papers and three patents were published in 2023. In addition, 16 oral presentations and six posters were delivered at international and Chinese conferences.

Joint Lab continues to play a bridging role

Further to its research output, the Joint Lab continues to play a bridging role in some major triangular collaborations and South-South co-operation initiatives.

This includes facilitation of agricultural technology transfers from China to other countries under the ‘Chinese Technology Going Global’ programme, and the consolidation of  the Plant Protection International Alliance under the framework of the ‘Belt and Road Initiative.’

The bridging role of the Joint Lab is supported by a growing number of sub-centres. These include the MARA-CABI European Lab in Delémont, Switzerland, the Yunnan-CABI Sub-centre for Integrated Prevention and Control of Trans-boundary Pests, Shandong Sub-centre for Biological Control, and the Anhui Sub-centre for Agricultural Pest Control, as well as partner Joint-Labs, such as that of CABI and Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute.

Inner Mongolia-CABI Joint Laboratory

This meeting also welcomed a new member to the Joint Lab family as the fourth sub-centre, following the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding of the Establishment of the Inner Mongolia-CABI Joint Laboratory for Grassland Management.

This will no doubt strengthen Joint-lab’s strategic outreach and coverage of different climatic and geographic zones and ecosystems when combating pests and diseases posing damages to China’s vast grassland areas.

In his remarks (delivered by Ms Zhai Lin, DDG, International Co-operations, CAAS), Professor Sun Tan, Vice President of CAAS put forward several suggestions for the future directions of the Joint Lab.

This included continuing to foster capacity building; deepening collaboration, thereby advancing scientific co-operation and exchange; exploring trilateral cooperation (particularly among CABI Member Countries); and promoting technology extension and product demonstrations.

Cooperation between the Joint Lab, European Lab, and sub-centers

The 16th Joint Lab Steering Committee meeting concluded with a commitment to further strengthen the cooperation between the Joint Lab, the European Lab and the sub-centers through the annual meeting, project development and scientific exchanges.

Dr Ulli Kuhlmann, Executive Director, Global Operations and CABI’s Co-Director of the Joint Lab said, “The Joint Lab achieved outstanding progress in driving forward research and innovation on sustainable development that meets the needs of both China and the wider world. This is particularly true in terms of the need for improved food and nutritional security, plant biosafety, and food safety.”

“While continuing to focus on areas, such as prevention and control of invasive alien species, Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and biological control, and introduction and development of biopesticide resources, it would be of strategic importance for the Joint Lab to carry out research and capacity building projects on pesticide risk reduction, mycotoxin contamination, and One Health going forward.”

The 2024 work plan will integrate key areas within CABI’s Medium Term Strategy 2022-2025. These include five goals to help tackle some of the greatest challenges facing humanity such as poverty, hunger, climate change, gender inequality and biodiversity loss.

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