“Usually I’m looking up at the stars but with this project, I’m back down to earth” quips Dr Rene Breton, Director of Research at the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Manchester. By combining the skills of a geographer, ecologist, social scientist, entomologist, astrophysicist, biologist, and electrical engineer, the joint CABI and University of Manchester team aim to capitalise on the unique skills from each subject to tackle the highly invasive weed Parthenium in Pakistan using remote sensing.
CABI has published one of the most complete and current datasets on Invasive Alien Plants (IAP) in East and Southern Africa. This extraordinary dataset is already being translated into new research findings and conservation action on the ground.
The crop damage caused by fall armyworm has put millions of livelihoods at stake across Sub-Saharan Africa. Its rapid spread has been projected to cause losses valuing $2.5 billion to $6.2 billion per year if left unabated. Fall armyworm has caused havoc for smallholder farmers across the region and become a serious threat to food security.
To help those affected, Feed the Future has been simultaneously trying to solicit new tools that communicate emerging research and information on how to battle the invasive pest to African farmers while also trying to ensure that those tools perform accurately and consistently. The Fall Armyworm Tech Prize is striking this balance–the competition is incentivizing innovators to submit solutions, but will only pay to reward those tools that are successfully tested in the field. One critical step in the prize process is testing to ensure that the 20 finalists selected actually work for the end-users’ contexts. Testing enables us to confidently say that the proposed solutions stand a good chance of mitigating the spread of fall armyworm.
A biotype of the cochineal, Dactylopius opuntiae, feeds solely on Opuntia stricta
Depending on which side of the fence you sit, cacti, in all its various forms, are either loved or loathed as ornamental delights or prickly pests that can devastate ecosystems, wildlife, and livelihoods.
The issue was in the spotlight recently when an article published on the BBC News Science & Environment website ‘Prickly cactus species ‘under threat’ brought the issue of the cacti’s plight in sharp focus.
First reported in Africa in September 2016, fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) is now present in most sub-Saharan countries, where severe damage in maize fields has been observed. Kenya is one the countries that has not been spared the wrath of this invasive pest. Since it was first reported in Kenya’s western region (Trans Nzoia, Busia, and Bungoma counties) in March 2017, it has spread to 42 counties including the major seed and maize production areas of the Rift valley, coastal, and western regions.
Invasive alien species should not be used in restoring degraded landscapes as their costs outweigh their benefits, experts say.
Invasive alien species, according to the Convention on Biological Diversity, are plants, animals and other organisms that are non-native to an ecosystem, and may adversely affect human health and the environment, including decline or elimination of native species.