The fall armyworm, Spodoptera frugiperda, is making headlines worldwide for all the wrong reasons. The caterpillar crop pest, native to the Americas, was reported in Africa for the first time last year and is now rapidly marching across the continent. It is a voracious pest of maize and other staple crops and has already destroyed tens of thousands of hectares of farmland. As such, it risks devastating smallholder livelihoods throughout Africa. Given that CABI scientists predict it could reach Europe and Asia in a matter of years, it looks set to quickly become a global problem.
The case for action against fall armyworm is overwhelming. On the ground, CABI will support national extension services to help farmers identify the pest quickly and accurately, contribute to awareness-raising and conduct studies to work out the best ways to control it that are not overly dependent on insecticides. Alongside these efforts, CABI also has a range of freely-available materials to help people understand and manage fall armyworm. Continue reading →
New research announced today by scientists at CABI confirms that a recently introduced crop-destroying armyworm caterpillar is now spreading rapidly across Mainland Africa and could spread to tropical Asia and the Mediterranean in the next few years, becoming a major threat to agricultural trade worldwide.
A severe infestation of the papaya mealybug (Paracoccus marginatus) nearly wiped out papaya orchards in Pakistan before this largely farming South Asian country decided to replace conventional chemical pesticides that were ineffective, with natural predators that proved to be successful. Continue reading →
The Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR) has blogged about CABI’s activities in its ‘Partner Spotlight’ feature (12-15). One of these was our new invasive species programme which is re-posted here.
Millions of people living in rural communities around the world face problems with invasive species –animals, diseases, insects and plants – that are out of control and have resulted in damage costing more than an estimated US $1.4 trillion globally (Pimentel et al 2001). Yet, while we may have heard about the threats of losing biodiversity, some may have never considered how the addition of a species could be a detriment to agriculture and farmers. Continue reading →
CABI promoted its new invasive species initiative at this year’s EcoSummit event which took place in Montpellier, France, from 29 August – 1 September. CABI’s latest initiative aims to tackle the issue of invasive species to improve the lives of 50 million farmers in Africa and Asia.
Launched in Copenhagen in 1996, the event provides a platform for ecological scientists and researchers from around the world to share new knowledge and discuss sustainable solutions to global environmental and ecological challenges. This year’s EcoSummit conference focused on terrestrial ecosystems, especially fragile systems that are less resilient to climate change and the impact that human activities are having on the environment – especially agriculture. The increasing global demand for food was also discussed and how intensified agriculture to meet this demand can adversely affect ecosystems.
CABI’s work on invasive species was highly relevant here as many invasive species cause the loss of natural biodiversity and alter global ecosystems. CABI’s expertise in tackling invasive species in order to promote environmental sustainability, livelihoods and food security is a significant contribution to solving global environmental challenges.
Julien Lamontagne-Godwin was one of CABI’s representatives at the conference. He said: “This conference is vital to showcase the myriad avenues of research in ecology, and is a vital tool to describe and remind us of the importance of a healthy ecosystem for our way of life. Many discussions we had with top scientists here highlighted the value of CABI’s knowledge platforms, such as our Invasive Species Compendium. These conversations also helped us add depth and significance to our new livelihoods initiative on invasive species.”
CABI has been working on invasive species for over 100 years, exploring measures to prevent, mitigate and manage invasive species on a global level. Through a selection of different sustainable techniques such as biological control, CABI tackles some of the worst invasive species that negatively impact terrestrial ecosystems and impact the livelihoods of farmers who depend directly on the ecosystem for their sustenance.
A new report supports the fact that invasive species have the potential to undermine global food security and sustainable development, a vital statement supported by Goal 15 of the Sustainable Development Goals which states that we need to: introduce measures to prevent the introduction and significantly reduce the impact of invasive alien species on land and water ecosystems and control or eradicate the priority species.
Invasive species are a plants, fungi or animals that are not native to a specific location (an introduced species) which spread and can cause damage to the environment, human economy or human health. If not managed sustainably, these invasive species often negatively impact natural biodiversity and ecosystems, and consequently, farmers’ livelihoods.
Rapid globalization and increased trade is compounding this problem. As agricultural and non-agricultural products move from one country to another, the risk of introducing invasive species to non-native regions is also increased.
Research carried out by Dean Paini (senior research scientist – CSIRO) on the Global threat to agriculture from invasive species was carried out across 124 countries. He found that 40 of the countries in the study had the possibility of being invaded by at least one of the 1,297 invasive pests reviewed. The research identified a correlation between the type of crops grown in a country, the level of trade with other countries and invasive pests present in trading countries. He reported that China and USA were the greatest potential sources of invasives species due to the scale of their agricultural production and high levels of trade with other countries.
The report found that countries in sub-Saharan Africa were more vulnerable to the impacts of invasive species. This is because of their less resilient farming systems and increased reliance on the natural ecosystem. Impacts of invasive species are mostly experienced by rural farmers but it’s also felt at the national economic level as agriculture contributes significantly to their Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It is therefore pertinent to understand the source, nature and method of spread of invasive species so that they can be prevented, mitigated or managed – if they’re already established.
We at CABI have launched a global initiative to raise awareness of the global threat of invasive species on food security, trade, sustainable development and rural livelihoods – see our dedicated website. CABI has over 100 years of scientific expertise and knowledge on invasive species and we are using this knowledge to help tackle the worst invasive species across Africa, Asia and Latin America. For instance, Opuntia stricta – an invasive cactus – has colonized vast grazing areas in Kenya, resulting in minimized grazing land and the death of livestock. We have therefore used our scientific expertise to help address this invasive by introducing a sap-sucking bug (Dactylopius opuntiae) which is known to feed only on Opuntia stricta without causing harm to any other native plant species. This bug has previously been successful in controlling Opuntia stricta in South Africa and has already started being effective in addressing the same issues in Kenya.
As sustainable agriculture and rural development is at the core of our work, we aim to tackle invasive species by improving the knowledge of local people on the different methods of preventing the arrival and spread of invasive species. We also want to support agencies responsible for early detection and eradication of invasive species as well as mitigate invasive species through sustainable measures. This will ensure that invasive species are addressed without causing further harm to the environment and livelihoods.