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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CABI leads rapid identification of Fall Armyworm

Fall Armyworm larvae seen in Ghana (J. Crozier, CABI)

Identifying armyworms usually involves taking the larvae that have caused the damage, waiting for them to develop in to adults and then studying the body and markings of these adults to identify the species collected. This process causes delays to identification, and could therefore delay action for what are some of the most ravaging crop pests in the world. However, scientists from CABI and Ghana’s Plant Protection and Regulatory Services Directorate have been able to speed up identification using molecular techniques to confirm the identity of fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) from the larvae alone.

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Plantwise Ghana Educates Farmers on Major Crop Pest and Diseases

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An agricultural  radio programme on air (Photo: CABI)

As part of its mass extension activities for 2016, Plantwise Ghana rolled out a four-week radio campaign to educate farmers about the detection and management of crop pests and diseases prevalent in the project’s five intervention regions in Ghana. The campaign, which took place between September and October 2016, involved five radio stations noted for their experience in running agriculture-oriented programs targeted at farmers in those regions.

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Plant Doctor wins best Agricultural Extension Agent award in Ghana

Contributed by Solomon Duah, CABI Ghana

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Paul Gyedu, a plant doctor working with the Plantwise program in Ghana, has been awarded the Ashanti region Agricultural Extension Agent (AEA) of the Year Award. Paul works for the Ministry of Food and Agriculture and combines his work as an extension agent with plant clinic operations in the Bekwai Municipality of the Ashanti Region. His experience and plant doctor training played a crucial part in being selected as the best AEA from among over 400 candidates in the region at the 2016 National Farmers’ Day awards ceremony, held on 04 November.

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Our favourite recipes – Ghana

Recipe courtesy of Hannah Serwaa Numah

Following Claire’s series of posts on ‘making the most of the Plantwise knowledge bank’, I’d now like to introduce our next mini-series, which asks our country partners for their favourite recipes using top crops brought into plant clinics in their countries, so we can share them with you! Our first recipe comes from Hannah Serwaa Numah, who is the National Data Manager for Ghana. She tells us how to cook okro stew and akple, which is a traditional Ghanaian dish made from dried corn flour.

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Update: Plant Health News (25 Mar 15)

Costa Rica's first carbon neutral banana farm had reduced its use of nitrogen fertilizers, reduced electricity consumption and improved the efficiency of transportation © The LEAF Project (CC BY-SA)
Costa Rica’s first carbon neutral banana farm has reduced nitrogen fertilizer and electricity use, and improved transportation efficiency © The LEAF Project (CC BY-SA)

Here’s a taste of some of the latest stories about plant health, including early reports on the damage caused by Tropical Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu, the first carbon neutral banana farm recognised in Costa Rica and training for Citrus farmers in Ghana on the use of technology to increase yields.

Click on the link to read more of the latest plant health news!
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Combatting the “black spot” on citrus production in Ghana

Contributed by Melanie Bateman, Integrated Crop Management Adviser, CABI in Switzerland

Citrus fruits with angular leaf spot (M. Bateman)
Citrus fruits with angular leaf spot (M. Bateman)

Not long ago, farmers in the Ashanti region of Ghana had seen citrus as a potential money-maker but now many are now giving up in despair as pathogens such as citrus angular leaf spot (Pseudocercospora angolensis) and citrus black spot (Guignarida citricarpa) diminish yields and make the fruits unmarketable. Many farmers have even gone as far as cutting down their orange trees and replacing them with cocoa.

Recently, a team of plant doctors, Ministry of Agriculture extension staff, researchers and other experts led a series of plant health rallies to help equip farmers with information on how to manage citrus angular leaf spot and other plant health problems constraining citrus production. The rallies were presented to unsuspecting members of the public – ‘spontaneous’ rather than regimented extension. The plant health rally approach enabled the team to reach many farmers in the affected area in a short period of time. It also served as a means for the team of experts to gather information from farmers’ on their problems and experiences.

During a plant health rally, an expert gives citrus growers some advice on how to manage some key plant health problems (M Bateman)
During a plant health rally, an expert gives citrus growers some advice on how to manage some key plant health problems (M Bateman)

For example, the discussions with the farmers uncovered another major challenge for the citrus producers: because of a lack of a market, farmers are unable to sell the oranges that they do produce. This is another factor contributing to the decision taken by some to replace citrus with cocoa. This feedback loop will help to strengthen the support provided to farmers. Ultimately, it is hoped that the support provided through plant health rallies, plant clinics and other extension activities will help farmers to respond to and begin to remove the “black spot” on Ghana’s citrus.