Fungus killing Inner Mongolia’s Sugar Beet crops identified

Researchers have identified the fungus causing black lesions and rotting roots for Inner Mongolia’s sugar beet harvest as Rhizoctonia solani AG4-HG-I.

In the first report on the spread of the fungus,  scientists from Inner Mongolia Agricultural University  estimated as much as 10% of the region’s crop was infected.

Collecting samples from infected plants, they incubated the fungus before testing and identifying it as Rhizoctonia solani.

R.Solani is one of the more versatile and destructive plant diseases affecting commercial crops.  It can reside in soil for years and, in addition to rotting the plant,  destroys the ability of new seeds to germinate.

It can reduce yields by as much as 25-100% in infected crops.

“To our knowledge, this is the first report of R. solani AG4-HG-I on sugar beets in China,” the study, First Report of Rhizoctonia solani AG4-HG-I Infecting Sugar Beet in China, said.

Inner Mongolia is one of China’s largest sugar beet producing regions, with 95% of the country’s production in the northeast.

Previous cases of a similar infection were identified in plants grown in Xinjiang Autonomous Region, but this is the first study of this strand of the fungus.

The study was published by the The American Phytopathological Society in April. 

Smokers getting younger in Shanghai schools

While China – the largest producer and consumer of cigarettes in the world –  appears to be pushing back against the habit, the next generation of smokers is getting younger, according to a recent study.

Using  the Chinese-language version of the Global Youth Tobacco Survey, 26,675 students were questioned on their attitude toward tobacco, whether they smoked and if they would ever try cigarettes.

With questions like “Do you think smokers are more elegant?” and “Do you think smokers are more popular?”, researchers aimed at finding out not only how many children had experimented with or regularly smoke cigarettes, but also to determine their future intentions to smoke.

The survey found 6.4% of those under the age of 15 had already experimented with cigarettes,  though only 1% of that age range described themselves as “current smokers”,  lower than the global average for developing countries but higher than previous studies.

“There is an increase of approximate 80,000 to 90,000 new smokers among Chinese adolescents aged 12–17 years per day and nearly 11–12 million adolescents experimented with smoking in the past month,” the study said.

“More alarming is that the average age of smoking onset is decreasing.”

Not surprisingly, men outnumbered the regular female smokers aged 13-18 with 5% and 1.4% respectively.

When comparing results for junior high, high school and vocational students, vocational schools had the highest level of smokers, with 29.2% experimenting with cigarettes and 13.5% smoking regularly.  By comparison, only 12.4% of high schoolers had tried smoking and 2.2% reported regularly use.

“Intentions to smoke—thoughts developed before smoking behavior about experimenting with smoking—are worth paying special attention to in adolescent smoking,” the study, Personality, Perceived Environment, and Behavior Systems Related to Future Smoking Intentions among Youths: An Application of Problem-Behavior Theory in Shanghai, China, said. 

“In the study, the perceived environment system was strongly associated with future smoking intentions among youths and peer smoking largely defined intentions to smoke.”

Conducted by researchers at the School of Public Health at Shanghai Jiao Tong University,  the study was published online by PLOS ONE on March 31.