Joint lab group The 13th Steering Committee (SC) meeting of the MARA China-CABI Joint Laboratory for Biosafety and 3rd SC meeting of the MARA China-CABI European Laboratory has reported ‘outstanding progress’ on all aspects of its work during 2020 despite the challenges posed by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Representatives from the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs (MARA), the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS) and CABI met virtually using Zoom video conferencing to review the past year’s work and approve future strategic plans for the laboratories based in China and Switzerland.

The meeting was opened by the session Chair Professor Weiping Hao, Deputy Director General of the Department of International Cooperation of CAAS. There then followed opening remarks from Mr Peng Tingjun, Deputy Director General, Department of International Cooperation, MARA and also CABI Executive Council member for China, Professor Wu Kongming, Vice President of CAAS and Academician, and Dr Ulli Kuhlmann, CABI’s Executive Director, Global Operations and Chairperson of the SC for 2020.

Presentations on progress made in 2020 and plans for 2021 were then given by the Co-Directors of the Joint Lab – Professor Zhou Xueping, Director General of Institute of Plant Protection, CAAS (IPP-CAAS) and Dr Kuhlmann.

The meeting heard how in 2020 some outstanding progress was made by both Joint Labs – ranging from governance, management, scientific exchanges and training, implementation of on-going collaborative projects and the development of new international projects to capacity building.

For example, the Joint Lab co-organised four Webinars on Fall Armyworm Biocontrol – which attracted over 730 participants in total – and, in respect of the CABI-led Plantwise programme, the ‘Plant Clinics based Green Control Technology Promotion’ was awarded the first prize of the Beijing Municipal Agri-Tech Extension Award.

In addition, the Joint Lab continued to facilitate triangular collaboration and south-south co-operation between China and the UK and China and Pakistan. For example, the Science Technology and Facility Council-funded project ‘BioSpace: Using space-enabled remote sensing for long term sustainable growth for biopesticide use’ and the proposal on the establishment of the China-Pakistan Plant Pests Sustainable Management Centre.

The Joint Lab also put forward recommendations for decision/policy making of CAAS and MARA, based upon CABI’s experience of the biological control of the desert locust – which is currently having a major impact on smallholder farmers in Africa, and Pakistan and could affect farmers in China.

Joint lab zoom

The 13th Steering Committee (SC) meeting of the MARA China-CABI Joint Laboratory for Biosafety and 3rd SC meeting of the MARA China-CABI European Laboratory met remotely due to COVID-19 restrictions.

2020 also saw the winning of serval research and international development projects. These included investigations into the biological control of the green mirid bug (Apolygus lucorum), the brown marmorated stink bug (Halyomorpha halys), desert locust (Schistocerca gregaria), spotted lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula) and spotted wing fruit fly (Drosophila suzukii).

Other notable projects included utilizing earth observation and Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) technologies to deliver pest and disease products and services to end users in China, the detection and control of maize lethal necrosis disease (MLND) and the development of green control techniques of wheat aphids.

Mr Peng Tingjun said, “This is my first SC meeting and I am really impressed that although affected by COVID-19 pandemic, the year of 2020 still witnessed some outstanding progress in all aspects of the Joint Lab and it is anticipated that this will continue throughout the rest of 2021.

“2021 is the first year that China implements its ambitious 14th Five Year plans. The Joint Lab can make useful contributions to the realisation of such objectives as the rural revitalisation, green agricultural development, continued reduction in the use of chemical pesticides and fertilisers, and promotion of green plant health products and technologies.”

As a Member Country of CABI’s, China is keen to work closely with CABI to address global concerns, such as food and nutritional security and climate change, and promote multilateral and triangular collaboration, benefiting all CABI Member Countries.

Prof. Wu Kongming said, “As a founding member of the Joint Lab, and with first-hand experiences of collaborating with CABI, I am delighted that over the past decade, the Joint Labs have made collaborative efforts towards the shared aims of addressing global priority issues, and been regarded as one of top platforms of this kind in China.

“To address new global challenges including those posed by COVID-19, the Joint Lab should aim for more innovation, expansion of partnerships, deepening of collaboration scopes, and consolidation of collaborative platforms.”

Dr Kuhlmann said, “Looking back the 13 years’ journey of the Joint Lab, I am very proud of what we have achieved. It is particularly pleasing that of 11 new proposals or concept notes jointly developed by the Joint Lab and international and/or Chinese partners, seven of them were approved for funding in 2020.

“The Joint Lab is ready to embrace new opportunities and challenges in 2021, particularly through continued research on transboundary crop pest prevention and control, the Belt and Road Plant Protection initiative, the new PlantwisePlus programme implementation, and the European Lab programme.”

The Joint Lab SC meeting was followed by a high-level dialogue between China and CABI, with a view to developing a joint action plan guided by a 5-year vision between the two parties. CABI side was led by CABI CEO Dr Daniel Elger. The development of this China-CABI action plan will utilise the existing Joint Lab SC mechanism.

Chaired by Dr Qiaoqiao Zhang, CABI’s Director of Memberships, both parties exchanged views on the key areas and opportunities for future collaboration including areas beyond the Joint Lab remits, such as digital development and publishing, and the tailored delivery of revised benefits of being a Member Country of CABI.  

Additional information

Main image: All aspects of the Chinese MARA-CABI Joint Laboratory for Biosafety’s work experienced ‘outstanding progress’ during 2020 despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic (Credit: CABI).