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Biological control training courses for advanced-level graduate students and junior faculty will concurrently be held in Beijing, China and Hanoi, Vietnam, September 02-09, 2017. If you are interested in further information or in applying to join these sessions please contact Dr. Kris Wyckhuys <k.wyckhuys@cgiar.org> or Mrs. My Hoang  <m.hoang@cgiar.org>.

E.A. Heinrichs

IAPPS Secretary General

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Cabbage is an important crop in Ghana where it grows all year round, right across the country. It is mainly grown for commercial production in Southern Ghana, in Akwapim and Kwahu areas and in the moist high elevations around Tarkwa. Growing cabbage in Ghana is challenging since it can be attacked by a variety of […]

via Cabbage disease mystery in Ghana — The Plantwise Blog

AfricaRice News brief

Friday, January 27, 2017

An international team of researchers representing the Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice), the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and Wageningen University, has raised the alarm over the enormous economic impact of parasitic weeds on rice production in Africa, threatening the food security and livelihoods of millions of resource-poor rice farmers and consumers in the region.

Smallholder farmers in the continent are losing every year half a million tons of rice worth about US $200 million because of parasitic weeds. This is roughly equivalent to the annual rice consumption of Liberia, a low-income country, which is highly dependent on rice imports. If the rice lost due to the parasitic weeds had been saved, it would have been enough to feed the total population of Liberia (4.5 million people) for a whole year.

Parasitic weeds are among the most destructive and problematic weeds to control. “When these plants invade food crops, they turn into ferocious weeds,” said Dr Jonne Rodenburg, Agronomist at AfricaRice.  The most important parasitic weed species in rice are Striga asiaticaS. asperaS. hermonthica and Rhamphicarpa fistulosa. They are all endemic to Africa and can also parasitize other cereal crops like maize, sorghum and millet.

The team of researchers reveal that these parasitic weeds, which survive by siphoning off water and nutrients from host crops, have invaded 1.34 million hectares of rainfed rice in Africa, affecting an estimated 950,000 rural households. They are increasingly becoming severe due to an intensification of agricultural production and climate changes.

The areas affected by parasitic weeds are home to some of the world’s poorest farmers. Studies by AfricaRice and partners have shown that parasitic weeds seem to predominantly affect women farmers in Africa as they are often forced to grow rice on the most marginal and parasitic weed-infested plots.

Parasitic weeds threaten rice production in at least 28 countries in Africa that have rainfed rice systems. The most affected countries are Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Madagascar, Mali, Nigeria, Sierra Leone Tanzania and Uganda.

The researchers warn that these parasites are spreading fast in the rainfed rice area and if nothing is done to stop them in their tracks, the damage will increase by about US $30 million a year.

These findings were revealed in a recent article by Rodenburg, Demont, Zwart and Bastiaans, entitled “Parasitic weed incidence and related economic losses in rice in Africa,” published in Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 235 (306-317). It is published as open access (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S016788091630528X).

Rice is the second most important source of calories in Africa. It is also critical for smallholder incomes. Demand for rice is growing at a rate of more than 6% per year – faster than for any other food staple in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), because of changes in consumer preferences and urbanization. Rice production is increasing across SSA, but the continent still imports some 40% of its rice.

Until now, there has been little information on the regional spread and economic importance of parasitic weeds in rice in Africa. “We have presented in this article best-bet estimates on the distribution as well as the agronomic and economic impact of parasitic weeds in rice in Africa,” explained Dr Rodenburg. “In fact, this is the first multi-species, multi-country impact assessment of parasitic weeds in Africa.”

The article focuses on the four most important parasitic weeds in rice. Striga species – known under the common name “witchweed” – occur in at least 31 countries with rain-fed upland rice systems.  Rhamphicarpa fistulosa – known under the common name “rice vampireweed” – threatens rice production in at least 28 countries with rainfed lowland rice systems.

Dr Sander Zwart, AfricaRice Remote sensing and Geographic information systems specialist, explained that for this study, a map of rainfed rice production areas, compiled from different databases, was overlapped with parasitic weed observation data retrieved from public herbaria to visualize regional distribution of these four important parasitic weeds.

From this overlap, probabilities of actual infestation were estimated. These estimates together with secondary data on parasite-inflicted crop losses and efficacy of weed control were combined into a stochastic impact assessment model.

The knowledge acquired on the distribution as well as the agronomic and economic impact of parasitic weeds in rice in Africa underlines the importance of finding effective measures to control these pests through research.

AfricaRice and its partners have been investigating and developing efficient parasitic weed management strategies that are affordable and feasible for resource-poor rice farmers. “A range of high-yielding, short-cycle, farmer-preferred rice varieties have been identified with resistance or tolerance to different species and ecotypes of Striga, as well as varieties with good defense against R. fistulosa,” said Dr Rodenburg.

He explained that such varieties can be combined with different agronomic measures, such as late sowing (against R. fistulosa) or early sowing (against Striga), and the use of organic soil fertility amendments. Growing a leguminous cover crop such as Stylosanthes guianensisand following a zero-tillage approach also contribute to effective control of Striga, as demonstrated by agronomic experiments conducted by AfricaRice and its partners.

To study institutional and socio-economic constraints underlying the challenge posed by the parasitic weeds, and to raise awareness and improve communication on efficient management strategies, AfricaRice and its partners have brought together stakeholders, including national research institutes, extension services, crop protection services and private sector representatives in workshops in East and West Africa.

At a time where there is a decline in public sector investments in agricultural research, efficient targeting of resources is becoming increasingly important. “The results of our studies emphasize the importance of targeted investments in further research, the development and dissemination of control technologies and capacity building of farmers, extension agents and other stakeholders, to reverse the observed trend of increasing parasitic weeds in rice,” stated Dr Rodenburg.

http://africarice.blogspot.com/2017/01/africas-rice-farmers-lose-200-million.html

USA: Soybean insect problems

Delta Farm Press Daily

red banded stick bug
The red banded stink bug can be harder to control than other stink bug species

Soybean insects that may be problems for you in 2017

Here is a glimpse of the insects growers are likely to deal with along with recommendations for dealing with those pests in 2017.

Patrick R. Shepard | Dec 13, 2016

With the 2016 Mid-South soybean crop now history, regional entomologists are offering growers a glimpse of the insects they’re likely to deal with in 2017, along with recommendations for dealing with those pests.

DEC 27, 2016

LOUSIANA OUTLOOK The main insect challenges for Louisiana soybean growers are red banded stink bugs and soybean loopers. The state experienced a mild winter, and red banded stink bug populations were very high in 2016.

“Unlike the southern green stink bug and the green stink bug, the red banded stink bug doesn’t diapause during winter and migrates immediately into soybeans,” says Louisiana State University Entomologist Jeff Davis at Baton Rouge. “It feeds primarily on legumes, so we found it very early in clover throughout the state.

“The red banded stink bug is tolerant to many insecticides. Pyrethroids do a great job of cleaning out other stink bug species, but not the red banded stink bug. Bifenthrin products work very well, and acephate remains our main go-to insecticide. Some pyrethroid pre-mixes, such as Endigo and Leverage, work well, but they often flare our second major pest problem, the soybean looper. Growers can use softer chemistries for loopers, including Intrepid and Prevathon, which preserve beneficials.”Unfortunately, growers have seen control slippage throughout the Mid-South for almost all insecticide classes on soybean loopers, Davis says, noting that part of the problem is application.

“Soybean loopers feed from the inside of the internal canopy, so they’re down in the middle of the plant. If we don’t use a high water volume application, and/or if we go too fast across the field, the insecticide just stays in the top third of the canopy. We need to fine-tune our applications for better canopy penetration and better control.”

Other insect problems for Louisiana soybean growers include corn earworms in the northern part of the state. And this past season, fall armyworms built up on grasses and moved into soybeans after growers were finally able to get into the field following wet weather to spray weeds. “We had an unusually high green cloverworm population this past year; these are sometimes misidentified as soybean loopers,” Davis says.

 

Cover crops

More Tennessee growers are planting cover crops, which require an adjustment in insect management, particularly when the cover crops are not burned down until very near planting or after planting.

“Insects will build up and migrate into soybeans from cover crops, particularly legumes such as vetch or winter peas,” says Scott Stewart, Extension entomologist at Jackson. “Especially in those situations, I recommend growers use an insecticide seed treatment.”

The state’s kudzu bug problem continues to expand geographically, but not in intensity. “I expect further expansion if we have another mild winter,” he says. “The good news is that we have a naturally-occurring fungus that is killing them off. It has done a remarkable job, in some cases, of keeping high populations in check.

“Even though we were fortunate to have an unusually light stink bug year in 2016, we need to watch for them in 2017. We also need to keep an eye on our normal slate of defoliating caterpillars, including soybean loopers and cloverworms, and treat when population levels reach economic threshold.”

Mississippi Insects

Mississippi’s top three soybean insect problems are the stink bug complex, soybean loopers, and cotton bollworms. Severity of these pests changes, depending on the year, but typically these are the top three yield robbers for producers.

The state saw an influx of red banded stink bug from the south in 2016. This insect requires different management because it is much more damaging than common stink bugs (southern green stink bug, green stink bug, and brown stink bug). It also has a lower threshold than Mississippi’s normal stink bug species.

“The red banded stink bug is a game changer for soybeans,” says Angus Catchot, Mississippi Extension entomologist at Mississippi State University. “It’s harder to control and infests fields later, compared to our regular species. We have to hit it early, often with tank mixtures such as acephate or Belay plus bifenthrin. We frequently have to come back with another application in seven days.

“The redbanded stink bug is very sensitive to cold winters, which can beat back the insect pest and we might not see it for a while. Before 2016, we hadn’t seen it at economic levels since 2009. But it must be a consideration for 2017.”

Soybean loopers are probably the state’s next most predictable pest, Catchot says. “These defoliators migrate up every year. We spray a significant amount of acreage every year, and we have a lot of chemistries that make them easy to control. However, we may be beginning to see some tolerance to the diamides (Besiege, Prevathon). They’re still working, but we’re seeing a shorter residual, and leaving more in the field than in the past. We may have to alternate with other products, such as Intrepid Edge or Steward.”

Corn earworm populations fluctuate yearly, Catchot says. “For the last eight years, Mississippi soybean growers have sprayed for some every year. The diamides are our preferred chemistry for corn earworms.”

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New pest puts banana farmers on alert

By Express News Service  |   Published: 08th February 2017 01:31 AM  |

Last Updated: 08th February 2017 06:12 AM  |   A+A-   |  

Image for representational purpose only. | express

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: A new variety of pest is found to be plaguing coconut and banana in the state, the Agriculture Department warned farmers on Tuesday.
The Rugose Spiralling Whitefly (Aleurodicus rugioperculatus) deposits its eggs on the underside of the leaves of coconut and banana and damages the crop. The droppings of the fly also cause damage to the leaves, resulting in less productivity from the crop. The pest was identified by P Raghunath of the College of Agriculture, Vellayani. This species of whitefly is endemic to Florida.

He urged coconut and banana farmers to be vigilant and take comprehensive precautionary measures. Leaves on which the pest attack is severe should be cut and destroyed. However, agriculture officials warned farmers against using any form of chemicals even on nearby crops. A blend of soap solution with neem oil and garlic extraction should be sprayed on the underside of the leaves. If the pest attack continues, farmers should spray a diluted solution of the KAU product verticilium.
Growing tulsi, pudina as intercrops also will help destroy the pests, the department said.

Peanut Burrower Bug

Panhandle Ag e-News

UF/IFAS Extension

University of Florida

The Peanut Burrower Bug – an Emerging Pest in Peanuts

Xavier Martini, David Wright, UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center

Burrower bugs are small Heteroptera insects with piercing/sucking mouthparts (Figure 1). There are six different species of burrower bugs that have been found to feed on peanuts. Among them, three are found in Georgia and Florida, but most of the damage has been attributed to the peanut burrower bug Pangaeus bilineatus. This species is native to Georgia, but can be found as far north as Connecticut. This species can survive up north despite the absence of peanuts, because it feeds on other plants such as cotton, peppers, strawberry, spinach, oak, peach, or pear.

Adults become active in the spring and lay eggs in the soil, while nymph activity is reported as early as mid-May. Burrower bugs spend most of their life cycle underneath the soil, feeding on mature peanut kernels and pods. Adults and nymphs feed directly on the peanut seed during the mid to late pod-fill by piercing the pods with their specialized mouth-parts.

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Despite the fact that damage on peanuts has been described for decades, it is only recently that burrower bug has become a recurrent problem in peanut crops in Georgia, Alabama, and Florida. The peanut burrower bug damages peanut kernels directly by feeding on them. The insertion of its mouth-part in the maturing kernel produces yellow feeding spots called “pitting” (Figure 2). Additionally, the peanut burrowing bug also affects peanut quality due to an increase of peroxide levels, and a rise in aflatoxin contamination. As peanuts grown in the USA are graded according to kernel internal damage, even a slight percentage of burrower bug damage might be detrimental for growers. With more than 2.5% of kernels showing internal damage, peanut grade drops to segment 2, and the value of the peanut load is dramatically reduced.

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Burrower bug infestations and damage are highly variable from year to year. It is known that hot and dry conditions increase risk of burrower bug damage. As recent spring and summer weather patterns have tended to be hotter and drier, due to climatic phases, it may explain why this bug has become a recurrent pest in peanut production in the last several years. Also, tillage protocols have shown to effect burrower bug population, with reduced tillage practices being associated with increased burrower bug densities. Additionally, the choice of winter cover crop affects burrower bug populations. Peanuts tilled into corn or wheat residues have greater burrower bug populations and higher feeding damage than peanuts tilled into rye residues.

Burrower bugs can be sampled either by the use of pitfall traps or light traps during spring and summer. The main control methods for this pest is the application of granular chlorpyrifos at planting or at pegging.  However, the EPA is currently moving forward to potentially revoke all food residue tolerances for chlorpyrifos. Therefore, it is possible that, in the very near future, growers will have to turn to other insecticides such as bifenthrin, imidacloprid or lambda-cyhalothrin. However, the efficiency of these insecticides on burrowing bugs needs to be fully evaluated. Regarding biological control, the entomopathogenic nematode Heterorhabditis bacteriophora has been described as a potential control agent. Cultural methods to reduced burrower bugs populations include irrigation, as this bug prefers dry conditions. Conventional tillage can also reducing burrower bug population, however, this has to be counterbalanced with the benefits of conservation tillage that include the improvement of soil tilth, the increase of organic matter, the reduction of water evaporation, and the reduction of soil erosion.

Niger: Locusts invade

CABI Invasives Blog

The locust invasions devastating Niger

locust-invasion-in-niger

It is the end of December 2016, with clear skies over Niger. But as 2017 draws near prospects are grim for some 500 residents in Bani Kosseye, a village 80km from the capital Niamey. Agricultural production has been poor here, and families’ meagre stocks are expected to run out within a few weeks. People already fear famine.The main cause for this food stress is none other than locusts. The damage the tiny insects cause to agriculture means they have become public enemy number one in the fields and pastures of this Sahel country.

The various institutions set up to combat the locust threat in Niger classify the insects into two main groups: desert locusts and grasshoppers. There is a third category, migratory locusts, but experts in Niger say these are not a significant threat.

Desert locusts, on the other hand — which are associated with the eighth biblical plague — have the ability to swarm into several dozen million individuals capable of travelling long distances across several countries to devastate fields. The 2003-2005 invasion affected 20 countries across northern Africa and destroyed millions of hectares of crops.

According to the preamble of Niger’s Locust Risk Management Plan, during a massive locust invasion swarms of desert locusts may invade “an area of 29 million square kilometres where 1.3bn people live, stretching from Africa’s Atlantic coast in the northern hemisphere to the Indo-Pakistani border, and from the Mediterranean to the Equator”.

Idrissa Maiga, a locust expert at the Agrhymet Regional Centre in Niamey, says “it is a species with an extraordinary reproductive capacity. Females may lay eggs several times during their lifetime and each female lays between 80 and 100 eggs.”

And how voracious are they? “Each individual is capable of eating its own weight in vegetable matter per day,” the entomologist says. “This means that each individual can eat up to two grams of fresh material per day.”

“Therefore, if a swarm of dozens or hundreds of millions of individuals zooms in on a crop, it only takes them between 15 and 30 minutes to destroy fresh material in the area,” Maiga says.

Millions of hectares destroyed

Some desert locust specialists, who are quoted in a technical note by Niger’s locust monitoring system (published in December 2016, in French) even say that “in theory, a swarm covering a 25-square-kilometre area with a density of 100 insects per square meter, may eat as much grass as 50,000 heads of cattle.”

The director general of the National Locust Control Centre (CNLA), Abou Moumouni, says Niger paid a very heavy price for the 2003/2005 locust invasion.

“3,755 villages had a 27 per cent cereal shortfall equivalent to about 223,487 tonnes,” he says. “This deficit, caused by the dual effects of drought and desert locusts, led to a 4.47million-tonne drop in food production.”

The situation is very worrying for Niger which is, with Mauritania, Mali and Chad, one of the so-called frontline states (a loose coalition of African states) in West and Central Africa. They are countries where outbreaks occur, the insects live on a permanent basis and can reproduce, forming swarms and invading crops — if the process is not interrupted.

In Niger, this happens in the regions of Aïr and Tamesna and, to a lesser degree, in the pastures in the Sahel, which is a summer reproduction area.

Fortunately, the country and the region do not face an invasion every year. “Over the past 30 years, there have only been three desert locust invasions: in 1988, 2003-5 and 2012,” says Moudy Mamane Sani, the director general of vegetable protection at Niger’s Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock.

However, the effects of these past invasions are felt for a long time. According to the CNLA, 1.25 million hectares of crops were destroyed in Niger during the 1988 invasion, which affected a total of 26 million hectares of crops in 23 countries
But this is not all. “Following the 2003-2005 crisis, nearly 4,000 villages in Niger were abandoned by residents who had lost their crops. This led to the exodus of these people from their villages to cities,” Moumouni says.

“Growers do not have anything but their production,” he says. “Where desert locusts go, they do not leave anything behind.”

He explains that growers who have lost their crops, and pastures that support their cattle, no longer have any capital; and all they can do is go to urban centres, look for a job and rebuild their lives until the following agricultural season.

Grasshopper threat 

However, for the residents of Bani Kosseye village, it is grasshoppers that are behind the distress, not a new invasion of desert locusts. “These are sedentary locusts which, unlike desert locusts, are not capable of gathering gregariously to form large swarms,” Maiga says.

Among these are Senegalese locusts, which Maiga says are particularly harmful for cereal crops, millet especially.

The fact of the matter is that grasshoppers also have a great capacity for harm in the fields. “Attacks by grasshoppers may take place at various stages of plant growth,” says Djibo Bagna, a farmer and the chairman of the executive board of Niger’s Farmers Platform.

“Once they have attacked seedlings, they move on to young plants. If they do not show up after seedlings have been attacked, it means they are waiting for plants to develop so they can attack leaves. [As a result] you will find stalks that are totally ‘naked’ and that will not yield anything at all,” he says.

“Grasshoppers even attack the ears [of cereal plants] and eat seeds which have not yet reached maturity. So you will see ears but there is almost nothing inside,” Bagna concludes.

This is more or less what the residents of Bani Kosseye experienced during the 2016 agricultural season. “Locusts appeared when the millet started flowering, both at heading time (when flower or seed heads start to show) and when seeds appeared,” says Issaka Arouna, a local farmer.

“We began fighting them even before the arrival of officials from the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock,” Arouna says.

Grasshopper infestations 

That particular fight was lost. It failed to prevent the risk of a food crisis, which is now dreaded in the village: “Can’t you see that empty granary over there,” says Arouna as he asks a young man to open one of the granaries of the village.

There is not much inside: ears of millet, some with sparse kernels, barely cover the floor area. “This is the crop of ten people you can see here,” the old man says with a stern expression.

This meagre crop is evidence that the threat of grasshoppers is far from negligible. “In fact, Senegalese locusts cause even more damage to millet in any one season than desert locusts do,” Idrissa Maiga says.

The species is particularly dangerous because it is endemic. “This is a situation we face on an almost yearly basis,” says Sani “During every agricultural season we are confronted with grasshoppers, and the seriousness of the situation varies from one season to another,” he says.

“This year, for instance, we have had many cases of grasshopper infestations, including in the Tilabéri, Zinder and Maradi regions,” Sani says.

Vulnerable countries 

Desperate times call for desperate measures — so countries which are most vulnerable to desert locust invasions have asked FAO (the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation) to coordinate prevention and response campaigns nationally, regionally and internationally. As a result, FAO has set up a special body in each region.

In Western and Northwestern Africa, which includes Niger, the body in question is the Commission for Controlling the Desert Locust in Western Africa (CLCPRO), which was set up in 2000. Each of its ten member states (Algeria, Burkina Faso, Chad, Libya, Mali, Morocco, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal and Tunisia) has pledged to set up on its territory a national desert locust control unit.

In Niger, the unit was set up in 2007. It is called the National Locust Control Center (CNLA), with headquarters in Niamey and a main operational base in Agadez, a city chosen for its proximity to outbreak areas.

“During remission periods, such as now, when there is no invasion and when locusts are in gregarious areas, the CNLA is tasked with leading monitoring operations,” Moumouni told SciDev.Net.

He says monitoring involves carrying out insecticide treatments as soon as the number of locusts reaches a certain level in order to confine them to gregarious areas.

“During invasions, the CNLA is tasked with preparing action plans as well as coordinating and evaluating response operations together with the Directorate for Plant Protection (DGPV) because we have limited means and personnel,” Moumouni says.

The directorate, part of the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, is also in charge of other types of locusts and pests, including grasshoppers.

Both bodies have opted for prevention as a strategy, spurred on by FAO which stated in 2006 that “when you look at the cost of response operations for the CLCPRO, you realise that expenses incurred to overcome the 2003-2005 invasion could have funded 170 years’ worth of prevention.”

Prevention is also driven by the economic, social and environmental impact of operations carried out as a result of the 2003/2005 invasion. “Thirteen million litres of pesticides were needed to overcome it. It cost more than half a billion dollars and caused crop losses worth more than $2.5 billion,” according to the FAO document.

Locust information network

As a result, steps are being taken in Niger to prevent invasions, and they involve both growers themselves as well as officials.

“We have growers whom we call brigadiers,” says Djbo Bagna, a farmer and the chairman of the executive board of Niger’s Farmers Platform. “We have already trained them to use pesticides and to alert technical services when the situation gets out of hand.”

“We have a locust information network,” adds the CNLA’s Moumouni.  “For gregarious areas, we have trained nomads, the military and all community leaders so they can inform us as soon as they spot a locust.”

He says information is fed into the monitoring activities of the CNLA, which sends teams to these areas on a monthly basis to evaluate the situation before a decision can be made. The evaluation takes the weather into account, as it too affects the development and reproduction of locusts.

The presence of locusts does not necessarily mean that we will have to go and spray [pesticides],” he says. “There is an intervention threshold. As soon as there are 500 adult individuals or between 3,000 and 5,000 small larvae per hectare, an intervention is needed for numbers to come down.”

Agricultural aircraft

“The DGPV’s Sani says that “in the case of localised infestations over several hectares, growers themselves intervene quickly in their fields with portable sprayers to solve the problem.”

“When the situation reaches a certain threshold, it is a matter for decentralised services at local or regional level who have spraying machines fitted to vehicles and who can treat several hectares per day,” he explains. “Air operations are conducted when infestations reach several thousand hectares.”

Sani says Niger has an airbase with three agricultural aircraft to deal with large-scale infestations.

In addition to aircraft, biopesticide products have been designed to assist with the response. Green Muscle, for example, was developed by Chris Prior and David Greathead, two scientists with CABI (Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International).

Neither Green Muscle nor any chemical pesticide will remove the threat. But with adequate monitoring of locust and grasshopper numbers — especially when they have just been born and before they become adults — Green Muscle may be able to control the number of locusts and grasshoppers, preventing them from becoming a threat for crops and human lives,” says Belinda Luke, a CABI biopesticide scientist.

The biopesticide is now sold by BASF but Luke says CABI is available to those needing advice to make the best use of the pesticide.

Monitoring and response

However, like those leading locust control in Niger, she believes monitoring remains the most effective weapon against desert locusts. “We need eyes in fields to monitor the number of locusts in order to be able to treat them with Green Muscle as soon as necessary.”

Meanwhile, research continues and Niger has the advantage of being the home of the Agrhymet Regional Centre, which was set up by the Permanent Inter-State Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS) to “inform and provide training on food security, the fight against desertification and water management in the Sahel and Western Africa”.

Among other facilities, the Agrhymet Centre has an insectarium where locusts are raised for the purposes of scientific work. The institution was set up to serve the 13 member countries of the CILSS, but “offers Niger a benefit given that everything it develops as a decision support tool or any information it provides is first implemented in the nearest countries, i.e. in Niger,” says entomologist Maiga.

“It goes without saying that our cooperation with Niger’s national technical services in charge of the locust threat is much closer owing to this proximity,” he says.

Yet despite this mechanism, it does happen quite often that there is no immediate response when the alarm is raised. That is precisely what occurred in Bani Kosseye during the latest agricultural season. Locals are still reeling from the fact that technical services failed to intervene as soon as they raised the alarm.

Both the DGPV and the CNLA cite reasons to do with the unavailability of financial means, the procedure for making a military escort available for teams, and a shortage of staff in charge of monitoring and intervention in several places at the same time. These difficulties have given rise to the idea of using drones in the near future, in a bid to increase the efficiency of prevention and intervention operations.

Meanwhile, villagers are making do. “We have a traditional method whereby we light small fires around fields because locusts fly away when there is smoke,” says Arouna, from Bani Kosseye.

Unfortunately, this method was inadequate to protect crops during the 2016 agricultural season.

This article was originally published on SciDev.Net. Read the original article→