The spread of pests and pathogens that damage plant life could cost global agriculture $540 billion a year, according to a report published on Thursday.
The report, released by the Royal Botanic Gardens (RBG) at Kew in London, said that an increase in international trade and travel had left flora facing rising threats from invasive pests and pathogens, and called for greater biosecurity measures.
Mr. Guze Kampinga visits the plant clinic at Dowa Turn Off with his damaged maize samples and is received by Mrs Eluby Phiri a trained plant doctor.
“I have grown about 0.8 ha of rain-fed and 0.4ha irrigated maize (Ndimba). This year a strange pest has seriously damaged my maize and almost all people in this village are experiencing the same problem. The pest started damaging the crop a few weeks after germination and has continued damaging the crop up to now. I first noticed the tips of the maize funnel chewed and stunting yet I had applied fertilizer and there was sufficient moisture. When I checked the funnel I found small caterpillars inside, which were growing very fast. Later the leaves were chewed and holes seen in the cobs, they also feed on the kernels. I have tried to control the pest to no avail”, said Mr Guze.
The FAO estimates that up to 40% of global crop yields are reduced each year due to the damage caused by pests (FAO, 2015). Crop losses have a huge impact on the livelihoods of smallholder farmers. They result in less food for them and their families and a lower income for spending on education and farming resources, including tools for the management and control of pests.
Accurate pest forecasting systems therefore need to be made available so that farmers can be warned of potential pest outbreaks that may severely damage crops. Pest forecasts enable farmers to implement prevention methods in time for them to be most effective.
Kenya has launched a campaign to control the Fall Armyworm, (FAW) which has been sighted by farmers feeding on Maize in Trans Nzoia County, Kenya. Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mr. Willy Bett said the pest poses a serious threat to the country’s food security situation.
“Its impact will be severe given that the country is just recovering from a drought that has affected food production. This risk is heightened since Trans Nzoia is the country’s grain basket producing maize both for seed and for consumption. The government has allocated 200million Kenya shillings for the campaign and we are working with partners to help us fight this pest”. The pest is spreading fast and has been spotted in 10 other counties of Bungoma, Kakamega, Uasin Gishu, Kwale, Taita Taveta, Nandi, Makueni, Vihiga, Busia, and Kisumu.
Last year, one of the strongest El Niño events ever recorded caused significant changes to weather patterns around the world. Southern and Eastern Africa were hit particularly hard and suffered some of the worst drought conditions for decades, with as little as a quarter of the expected rainfall in the last few months of the year1. Drought is still having devastating impacts on crop yields in Africa, and humanitarian crises have been declared in the worst hit countries.
All farmers are affected by pests and diseases attacking their crops, but smallholder farmers and their dependents in low- and middle-income countries are disproportionately affected. To put it in perspective, there are about 500 million smallholder farmers worldwide who feed about 70% of the world’s population. When you cultivate less than a hectare (2.5 acres) of land and rely on your crops for both sustenance and income, fighting pests can become a battle for life and death. International trade and climate change are exacerbating the problem by altering and accelerating the spread of crop pests.
Occasionally, when a particularly destructive pest surfaces, it can make headline news. Last year it was reported that the tomato leaf miner moth…
A new UN report states that it is dangerously misleading to suggest that pesticides are necessary to achieve food security. Instead, the report recommends that farms reduce pesticide use and adopt sustainable practices that protect crops from pests by enhancing biodiversity and natural enemies. This agroecological approach eliminates reliance on, and exposure to, expensive and toxic chemical inputs, but would it really allow farmers to be just as productive?