Why African farmers should balance pesticides with other control methods

By Esther Ndumi Ngumbi. Reblogged from The Conversation.

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Insects are constantly adapting to methods used to control them. Shutterstock/Alf Ribeiro

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.

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Fall Armyworm: A new collaboration to disseminate best management practices to farmers

From the 13th to the 15th of November 2017, USAID and CIMMYT held a Regional Training and Awareness Generation Workshop on Fall Armyworm Pest Management for Eastern Africa in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Participants from 11 countries attended the workshop to discuss short, medium and long term strategies to control Fall Armyworm in Africa. Following its accidental introduction into West Africa, the pest has spread quickly to the whole continent. The current and predicted yield loss to maize from FAW over the 2017-2018 season in Sub-Saharan Africa is estimated to reach US$ 3 billion.

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Fall armyworm caterpillar from ICIPE rearing facilities (Photo credit: Thomas Wallace, Africa Lead)

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Voices of farmers facing the Fall armyworm

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Deo Mutekanyiza beside his maize field (Photo: Farm Radio International)

Masindi and Kiryandongo are the maize-growing regions of Uganda, and maize – or corn – is a staple crop, cooked into a porridge for breakfast or into ugali for dinner.

The Fall armyworm is threatening maize crops in Uganda – and by extension the food security of Ugandans. It’s expected to damage up to 1.39 million tonnes of maize.

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Space-age technology for fight against crop-devastating pest outbreaks

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Fall armyworm on maize; photo: CABI

Last night, the Pest Risk Information Service (PRISE), which uses state-of-the-art technology to help inform farmers in sub-Saharan Africa of pest outbreaks, was launched in Zambia at the British High Commission in Lusaka. The service is being developed by a consortium led by CABI and is funded by the UK Space Agency’s International Partnership Programme (IPP).

Datasets obtained from a combination of the plant-pest lifecycle, earth observation and satellite positioning, are being used to spearhead the fight against pests that devastate an estimated 40% of the world’s crops. The project will help farmers fight back against potentially disastrous pests such as the Fall Armyworm.

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Fall armyworm could cost Africa $2bn+ in lost harvest

DJHggJ4WsAAzkwI (1)Last week, CABI confirmed that since it arrived in Africa in 2016, the Fall Armyworm (FAW) has been reported in 28 African countries, presenting a now permanent agricultural challenge for the continent. FAW mainly affects maize and can cut yields by up to 60%. In research funded by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), CABI estimate that, if not properly managed, the pest will cost 10 of Africa’s major maize producing economies a total of $2.2bn to $5.5bn a year in lost maize harvests.

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Side event on fall armyworm at AGRF 2017 [livestream]

In 2016 the fall armyworm, a major pest in the Americas, was found in Africa for the first time. Since then it has rapidly spread across much of sub-Saharan Africa. The caterpillar feeds on more than 80 different plants, but maize is its preferred host, the most widely grown crop in Africa and a staple for half the continent. In the context of Africa’s climate, the insect is now likely to build permanent and significant populations in West, Central and Southern Africa, and spread to other regions when temperatures are favourable, posing a major threat to food security.

CABI and AGRA are hosting a side event on fall armyworm at the African Green Revolution Forum 2017 in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. If you are not attending the conference, you can watch the livesteam below on September 7 at 14:00 (UTC). The video will also be available after the event.

[Update 14:20]: Due to poor internet connectivity, we are unable to run the livestream. A video will be made available on this page after the event.

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The Life Cycle of Fall Armyworm

Fall armyworm life cycleThe Fall armyworm, Spodoptera frugiperda, is a major invasive pest in Africa. It has a voracious appetite and feeds on more than 80 plant species, including maize, rice, sorghum and sugarcane. Another feature which makes it an incredibly successful invasive species is its ability to spread and reproduce quickly. CABI have developed a poster to show the life cycle of the Fall armyworm, which includes egg, 6 growth stages of caterpillar development (instars), pupa and adult moth. Click here to view the full poster, or read about the life cycle below.  Continue reading