Insect pests cause almost half of the crop losses in Africa. If the continent is to feed its growing population, farmers must find ways to control them. Pests account for high losses in other developing regions too.
For smallholder farmers in particular, pest management needs to be affordable, safe and sustainable. It should avoid the drawbacks of synthetic pesticides as far as possible. Research is now showing that integrated approaches can achieve these goals.
One of the worst diseases of the tuber crop, cassava, in sub-Saharan Africa is Cassava brown streak disease (CBSD). Since its resurgence in East Africa in recent years, it is now spreading to Central and Western Africa. The other major disease of cassava in this region, Cassava mosaic disease (CMD), can also cause widespread damage to the crop, however there already CMD-resistant varieties of cassava available. Until now, very little natural resistance to CBSD has been found. Plant scientists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich have combined natural resistance to CMD with modifications of the cassava genome to develop a variety of cassava resistant to both CBSD and CMD that can be grown in Africa. As cassava is a staple food to millions of people, this new variety has the potential to halt the spread of the disease and prevent famine from crop losses. Continue reading →
Striga, commonly known as witchweed, is a group of parasitic weeds found in over a third of cereal crops in sub Saharan Africa (SSA). Crops typically yield at least 40% less when they are parasitised by Striga, causing an estimated US$ 7 billion loss and reducing the food security of millions. Continue reading →