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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→

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Southeast

Farm Press

cotton-seedling-GA-2016-a
From whiteflies in southern Georgia to bollworms in North Carolina to plant bugs in Virginia, 2016 was certainly a challenging insect year for cotton growers across the Southeast, and 2017 is expected to be no different.

John Hart | Feb 08, 2017

From whiteflies in southern Georgia to bollworms in North Carolina to plant bugs in Virginia, 2016 was a challenging insect year for cotton growers across the Southeast. Dominic Reisig is urging farmers to be prepared for another challenging year.

Reisig, North Carolina State University Extension entomologist, addressed “Emerging Insect Issues in the Southeast” at the annual meeting of the Southern Cotton Growers and Southeastern Cotton Ginners in Charlotte, N.C., Jan. 20, where he provided an insect situation, outlook report and control recommendations.

“Thrips are probably our biggest pest problem in the upper Southeast. When you think about the tough environment you have to plant cotton in early season, the conditions can be brutal,” Reisig said.

With the loss of Temik, North Carolina farmers thought they had a good replacement for thrips control with the use of an infurrow application of Admire Pro along with an insecticidal seed treatment.

“One of the things we are preaching to our growers is to load up on active ingredients,” Reisig said. “We think seed treatments still have value even though we have this resistance situation. We’re recommending to our growers still use these insecticides but don’t expect them to perform as they have in the past.”

“Injury is a function of weather: how fast is that plant goring to grow, how many thrips are out there,” Reisig explained. “This model will actually predict when thrips are dispersing and when they are going to be on the plant and what’s the weather going to do. It will give you a red light or a green light, those are the different planting dates. We’re going to be able to tell growers if at this location you plant cotton at this date, you’re going to be safe from thrips.”

As for whiteflies in Georgia, Reisig said a new species has been detected, the silver leaf whitefly which is difficult to control and requires the use of expensive insecticides, compared to the more common banded wing whitefly which is easier to control.

“The problem with whiteflies is they are not mobile,” Reisig said. “They stick on the bottom of the leaves and tap into the veins of the plant and they basically get too much sugar. They drop it onto the cotton and cause a great deal of loss that way. When the cotton opens up, the lint get colonized and black mold or sooty mold makes the cotton sticky.”

In North Carolina, bollworms were a major midseason pest in 2016 due the increased planting of corn relative to cotton. Reisig explains the cotton bollworm uses corn as an early season host. “If there’s a lot of early season hosts out there, you’re probably going to get a lot of cotton bollworm coming out of the corn and moving into your cotton,” he noted.

In addition, true Bt resistance in cotton is becoming a problem. However, Reisig said Bt cotton still has a place because it delivers other advantages such as excellent tobacco budworm control.

Finally, Reisig notes that plant bugs have now moved into Virginia in addition to becoming a bigger issue in North Carolina.

“When I started in 2009, I was told plant bugs were not an issue in North Carolina cotton. They have become an increasing issue year after year and we’re not exactly sure why,” he said.

“In northeastern North Carolina, plant bugs are a problem in nearly every field. Three-fourths of our fields are getting sprayed for plant bugs. We’ve increased the number of sprays on the fields, averaging two sprays for every field.”

Reisig believes plant bugs are showing resistance to pyretheroids in North Carolina which is why rotating chemistries is critical. In addition, plant bugs are liked to bollworms in cotton

“For a pest like plant bugs, what you really want to do is you want to control it early season before cotton blooms because a plant bug uses its mouth parts to feed on a square,” Reisig explained. “If it feeds on a square, the square will fall off and you won’t have any flowers left to make bolls. When you spray cotton early season to control plant bugs, you knock out natural enemies that then control bollworms later on in the season.”

Reisig is recommending the insecticide Diamond for plant bug control this year. “Diamond is a unique chemistry because it is an insect growth regulator. Insect growth regulators are only active on nymphs but they tend in the Mid-South to extend the period of control so you don’t have to spray as much,” he said.

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Armyworms have destroyed 2,000 hectares of crops in Malawi, spreading to nine of its 28 districts in the last few weeks, the agriculture minister said on Saturday,

Malawi, which was hit by a crippling drought last year, has become the third Southern African nation to report an outbreak of armyworms, a voracious pest that devours maize and other crops.

“The latest is that the invasion is spreading very quickly than we thought and this week nine districts have been affected destroying 2,000 hectares of crop fields,” agriculture minister George Chaponda told Reuters.

A year ago, Malawi successfully contained an armyworm invasion that affected seven districts across the country.

Malawi’s maize crop, the staple grain for the impoverished nation, was devastated last year by a drought triggered by El Nino.

About 6.5 million Malawians, more than a third of the population, are dependent on food aid until this year’s harvest in March, according to the United Nations’ World Food Programme.

Malawi’s outbreak follows one in neighbouring Zambia, where the military has been deployed to battle the bugs, and Zimbabwe.

The armyworms are caterpillars that “march” across the landscape in large groups feasting on young maize plants, wiping out entire fields.

(Reporting by Mabvuto Banda; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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Phnom Penh Post logo_ppp

Farmers use a net in an attempt to clear army worms off a rice crop in Tbong Khmum earlier this week. Photo supplied

Farmers use a net in an attempt to clear army worms off a rice crop in Tbong Khmum earlier this week. Photo supplied

Army worm outbreak plagues rice crop in five provinces

Thu, 16 June 2016

An outbreak of army worms – brought on by recent rains – is attacking crops in five provinces, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.

A statement released by the ministry on Tuesday identified the provinces affected as Kampong Cham, Prey Veng, Tbong Khmum, Preah Vihear and Oddar Meanchey

Army worms are common in Asia, and each year they damage Cambodian crops such as lettuce, beans and corn.

The statement said that this year, because of the drought, rice crops were also affected. The hot weather acted like an incubator for the worms, and following the rains, the growing rice provided a source of food.

“The impact hasn’t been serious yet, because the outbreak is just beginning,” said Keam Makardy, field operation program manager for agricultural NGO CEDAC.

“But if farmers don’t take care of the pests, it could turn into a big problem.”

Makardy recommended farmers dig canals around their rice fields and line them with ash, which would kill the worms.

Kampong Cham agriculture department director Kim Savoern said farmers could clear vegetation, release ducks into the field to eat the army worms or use pesticide.

The latter, however, worked only one time and would not eliminate future outbreaks, he warned.

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Southwest

Farm

Press

Sugarcane aphid taking toll on South Texas grain sorghum

  • Sugarcane aphid damage to Valley sorghum tops $31 million
  • Control measures prevented worse losses

The tiny yellow specs on this sorghum leaf are sugarcane aphids, newcomers to the state’s forage and grain sorghum crops causing multi-million dollar losses.

(AgriLife Communications photo by Rod Santa Ana)

It may be hard to spot, but the tiny sugarcane aphid is racking up tens of millions of dollars in losses in just the four South Texas counties evaluated so far, according to a report by an economist with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

And the losses would have been much higher had grain sorghum growers not followed the advice of AgriLife Extension experts, according to Dr. Samuel Zapata, who conducted the study from the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Weslaco.

“The economic study we did here in the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas on the sugarcane aphid is the only such study available,” Zapata said. “It’s the only study that has been able to quantify the economic damage caused by this insect.”

Zapata estimates the sugarcane aphid caused a total loss of $31 million to the Valley’s sugarcane industry in the 2014 and 2015 growing seasons. But at the same time, growers were able to avoid another $35 million in potential losses by following control recommendations released by AgriLife Extension.

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GPPN olive oil article217In: Bloomberg Business Week, Dec. 22-Dec. 28, 2014, p. 16.

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OLlive oil article LJStar081

Published in the

Lincoln (NE, USA) Journal Star

November. 19, 2014

 

 

 

 

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