ILVO Newsletter July 2015

Did you know that the amount of genetic material in roses influences their resistance to stress? That milk production can be modeled using artificially-intelligent algorithms? That pesticides can be adjusted to the last drop using new camera techniques? That fish sometimes get ulcers? Read in this summer edition of the ILVO newsletter about a bouquet of recent ILVO research results and newly-started research projects. Enjoy your summer reading!

Hot off the press

Smile, droplets - you’re on camera! Imaging of pesticide sprays using high speed camera techniques. Integration of imaging techniques for the quantitative characterization of pesticide sprays
spray techniquesBy developing two advanced image acquisition techniques, ILVO/Ghent University researcher Sofija Minov has developed a new way of imaging pesticide sprays and measuring their characteristics. These new techniques allow for better evaluation of spray application techniques and development of new prototypes. This research contributes to a more efficient use of plant protection products.

“Sea”-ing the floor after fishing. Can pulse fishing reduce disturbance of the seabed? An experimental assessment of the physical impact of pulse and tickler chain beam trawling.
beam trawlA conventional beam trawl with tickler chains and a pulse beam trawl have clearly different effects on the seabed, as revealed in the European BENTHIS project. Beam trawls in particular alter the bathymetry of the seabed when they are equipped with tickler chains. The turbidity of the seawater remains largely similar after passage of either gear, because the trawl net itself plays a greater role rather than either the tickler chains or electrodes.

The cob, leaves and stem of maize are all nutritious for dairy cows. But which type of silage maize creates optimal performances and minimal emissions in dairy cows?
dairy cowsWhat is the best silage maize for dairy cattle? Do you get the best performances with maize rich in starch and is the nutritive value of cell walls negligible? Or do stem and leaves, like the cob, also contribute to the nutritive value of maize? To answer these questions, a feeding experiment with 3x8 cows was set up.

Is pulse fishing causing skin ulcers in fish? Trends in prevalence of skin ulcers in fish in the Belgian part of the North Sea, and exploration of possible causes.
ulcers on fishILVO/Ghent University researchers have not found any conclusive evidence that the observed increase in skin ulcers in fish results from pulse fishing. Analysis of monitoring data and skin tissue samples have not led to an unequivocal explaination of the increase in skin ulcer prevalence.

Rubber layer on floors helps prevent lameness and claw problems in sows
rubber layer on floorsExperiments performed by ILVO in partnership with Ghent University show that a rubber layer above concrete flooring in group housing pens for sows reduces the incidence of claw problems and lameness. Group housing is compulsory during most of the sows’ gestation period. The combination of freer movement and hard (slatted) floors increases the chance on developing claw and leg problems.

The more, the stronger? The number of chromosome sets in the rose family Role of polyploidization in (a)biotic stress resistance of horticultural crops
polystressAre polyploid plants better resistant to abiotic and/or biotic stress?
This question was the origin of a study by ILVO, KU Leuven and Ghent University. The results of the tests with apple and rose were variable.

Ready, set, go!

Drying, American style? “Refractance Window” technology for drying vegetable and animal products. First steps to bring this innovation to Europe.
innodryRefractance Window Drying (RWD) appears to be a promising alternative for drying techniques normally used in the food industry – it is faster, requires less energy and has an excellent conservation of bioactive components. Before this American technology can be applied in Flanders, however, it must pass a test and undergo an optimization process. ILVO, Flanders’ FOOD and several other companies will cooperate to meet these requirements, thus bringing this technology closer to use in practice.

A shark is not a shark by any other name…. Developing a toolkit for the identification of rays and sharks.
sharkA toolkit for the identification of sharks and rays will improve the protection of vulnerable species and stocks, and will support more sustainable marketing of the sharks and rays coming from healthy stocks.

First steps towards faster and better first-generation hybrids in celery and leek. Protoplast fusion for the development of cytoplasmically male sterile celery and leek as an intermediary step towards F1 hybrids
leekCytoplasmic male sterility (CMS) is an important goal in leek and celery breeding, as it can be an important tool for F1 hybrid development. Protoplast fusion can introduce CMS more quickly than classical crossing schemes. The goal of our experiments is asymmetric fusion between leek or celery plants, as well as between related species. Developing protocols for fragmentation, fusion, regeneration and selection is indispensable for this work.

Mushrooms with a nicotine rush? Nicotine in cultivated mushrooms: contamination or endogenous biosynthesis?
mushroomsWhat causes nicotine to be present in cultivated mushrooms? Does a contamination occur during cultivation or can mushrooms produce nicotine themselves? ILVO and Inagro are looking into where this problem could stem from, by analyzing mushrooms and examining the cultivation process.

Maybe biocides aren’t so innocent after all…? Biocide use on pig and poultry farms and their relation to the antimicrobial resistance issue
biocamriskCan the use of biocides enhance antibiotic resistance? An inventory of biocide use, a microbial analysis of farm samples and an in-vitro study should allow us to map the risk factors and formulate recommendations for farmers and policymakers.

Predictive research with regards to milk production
cowCan tools from computer science be used for economic optimization of dairy farms? ILVO researchers have recently set about answering this question. It should be possible to automatically analyze the ever expanding set of dairy cow data, and in doing so help the Flemish dairy farmer to up the economic efficiency and potential of his or her farm.

Exotic flea beetles: a pest in European potato crops? Detection, control measures and impact study on Epitrix in Belgium
epitrixFlea beetles of the genus Epitrix often cause economic damage to potato crops in North America. Some invasive American species have become established in Portugal and northern Spain; several measures have been taken to limit the spread and damage in Europe. This project focuses on the development of rapid, on-site identification tools to discriminate between indigenous and exotic species. The biology and host plant choice of Epitrix and related flea beetle species are also being studied.

Not happy to see these guys again: Wireworms’ return is causing increasing damage to field crops. Cross-sector integrated control now being developed
wirewormWireworms are causing increasing damage to potatoes, corn (maize) and Belgian endives under organic and integrated cultivation, in Flanders as well as neighboring regions and countries. A Flemish research consortium has been established, with ILVO as one of the active partners. The principal goal of this consortium is to advise growers about how to control these soil-dwelling insects in a sustainable way.

A threat to maize monoculture? The corn rootworm Diabrotica virgifera is back. The search is on for an efficient and integrated control strategy for Flanders.
corn rootwormThe return of the damaging corn rootworm requires development of an integrated pest management approach. ILVO, LCV and the Government of Flanders’ Department of Agriculture and Fisheries take the first step – to examine the life cycle of the insect in our climatic conditions. The ultimate goal is to control the insect’s population and prevent damage to the Belgian corn crop.


  1. Plastic rubbish in the sea is loaded with chemicals and bacteria. ILVO researchers study the extent of the problem and develop methods to deal with marine plastic waste.
  2. Indonesia visits ILVO
  3. Long-sought biomarker for chronic stress in fish discovered by ILVO/UGent. Scales tell a story on the stress history of fish.
  4. Cattle kept outside: heat influences comfort and milk production
  5. ILVO press release 25 June 2015: Colistine added to dairy self-monitoring program
  6. ILVO press release 4 June 2015: Research project on organic agriculture (SOILVEG) focuses on agro-ecological service crops (ASCs) and the best way to destroy them mechanically.
  7. ILVO press release 26 May 2015: Window-shopping for research: eleven stands during one evening at ILVO’s dairy research barn