From a distance, Wycliffe Ngoda’s two acres of shiny green maize crops look healthy and lush. But the tell-tale holes in the leaves and debris on the stems give away an increasingly dangerous secret hidden in more and more maize fields across Kenya and sub-Saharan Africa. The rampant Fall Armyworm caterpillar is once again threatening harvests across the continent for a second year.
The pest, which arrived in Africa from the Americas in 2016, affected around 50,000 hectares of maize in Kenya alone last year, costing 25 per cent of the crop, according to government officials.
The 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 →
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.
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.
Here’s a taste of some of the latest stories about plant health, including how technology could increase Citrus yields in Pakistan by 30%, what scientists in Kenya are doing to eliminate devastating wheat rust and a global maps of the gap between potential and actual yields of wheat and maize.
Last week, 193 Member States of the United Nations adopted the new Sustainable Development Agenda to end poverty by 2030. This came at the beginning of a three-day Summit on Sustainable Development during which focussed on implanting changes that will see the Agenda achieve its ambitious aims. The Agenda, consisting of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), will help countries to develop their policies over the next 15 years.
Plantwise have recently been investigating APHLIS data, a great source of information on postharvest losses in Sub-Saharan Africa. The system is run by a network of local experts who collect and supply data. Using a shared database and a Losses Calculator APHLIS provide estimates of weight losses for cereal grains at a national and provincial level. Continue reading →