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.
Large tracts of farmlands and pastures in the Amhara Regional State of Ethiopia are infested by the invasive weed parthenium (Parthenium hysterophorus). Parthenium reduces yields of major crops and replaces valuable pasture species, decreasing livestock productivity. Parthenium also makes many people sick, causing both skin and respiratory allergies, and displaces native plant species, damaging the region’s biodiversity.
In order to combat this weed, a project led by Virginia State University and funded by USAID through the Integrated Pest Management Innovation Lab at Virginia Tech has released two bioagents, the leaf-feeding beetle (Zygogramma bicolorata) and stem-boring weevil (Listronotus setosipennis). On June 20, 2017, thousands of adult Zygogramma and hundreds of Listronotus were released at several parthenium-infested sites around the town of Finote Selam.
Parthenium at time of Listronotus release, June 20, 2017
Parthenium at time of Zygogramma release, June 20, 2017
The fall armyworm is still invading regions in Africa. Since 2016 this worm has been spreading across sub-Saharan Africa and has been officially identified in 11 countries. Roger Day from the Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International (CABI) elaborates on its dangers in this blog and provides recommendations for governments and farmers.Continue reading →
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.
Human health issues arising from the use of synthetic pesticides and concerns about their environmental toxicity are making lower-risk alternatives increasingly attractive. Biological control agents are living organisms which reduce harmful pest populations. Many people know of the common ladybird, whose larvae feed on aphids, but a wide range or biological control agents – e.g. predatory and parasitic insects, diseases of plant pests – are available. However, their use is still limited, in particular in low- and lower-middle-income countries. Continue reading →