It’s hard to believe that a small worm could destroy millions — millions of tons of crop yields, millions of dollars in farm income and millions of tons of food for families.
I’m talking about the Fall Armyworm (FAW), an invasive pest that has spread quickly across the African continent. Originally from the Americas, FAW was first reported in West Africa in early 2016 and now seriously threatens food supplies across the continent.
Mohamud Abdu stands tall in his maize field in Alaba, Ethiopia, a small agricultural district over 200 kilometers south of the country’s capital, Addis Ababa. Smooth green leaves reach up to his waist. The field is off a dirt road where children ride old bicycles and the occasional wooden cart, pulled by donkeys and piled high with people, passes by.
The sea of green where Abdu stands looks lush and healthy at first glance. The maize stalks are planted closely together and the leaves rustle gently in the wind. But upon inspection, these leaves are riddled with holes and plant detritus litter the remainder. Abdu pries open the whorl of a nearby maize plant with his fingers, and takes out a small caterpillar, roughly an inch long. It squirms on his palm.
The US Agency for International Development (USAID) recently offered prize money for the best and digital tools that can be used to help combat the fall armyworm (FAW), an invasive pest that has spread across Africa. The winners will be announced in the coming months.
Dr Yelitza Colmenarez, CABI Brazil Centre Director & Plantwise Regional Coordinator – Latin America and Caribbean, recently presented at the First International Congress of Biological Control in Beijing, China, on the fascinating issue of climate change and the impact on the Biological Control of agricultural pests and diseases in Latin America.
Here we present Dr Colmenarez’s expert insight (including link to her full PowerPoint presentation) into what pests and diseases need to prioritized and why Climate Smart Agriculture could be the key to fighting these risks to crops exacerbated by changing climatic conditions in countries such as Brazil, Mexico, Chile and Peru.
From a distance, Wycliffe Ngoda’s two acres of shiny green maize crops look healthy and lush. But the tell-tale holes in the leaves and debris on the stems give away an increasingly dangerous secret hidden in more and more maize fields across Kenya and sub-Saharan Africa. The rampant Fall Armyworm caterpillar is once again threatening harvests across the continent for a second year.
The pest, which arrived in Africa from the Americas in 2016, affected around 50,000 hectares of maize in Kenya alone last year, costing 25 per cent of the crop, according to government officials.
Alan Gange, Amanda Currie & Nadia Ab Razak (Royal Holloway, University of London), Carol Ellison, Norbert Maczey & Suzy Wood (CABI ) and Robert Jackson & Mojgan Rabiey (University of Reading) discuss the threat of invasive species to biodiversity, including the biological control of Himalayan balsam
Invasive species are one of the main threats to biodiversity across the world, being second only to habitat destruction in causing biodiversity decline. In the UK, they cost the economy £1.7 billion annually, through costs of control, losses to agriculture and damage to infrastructure.