Scale insects – such as the coffee mealybug and cassava mealybug – are some of the least studied group of invertebrates in East Africa. However, a collaborative effort has been made to address the threat they pose to smallholder farmers: despite their cross-cutting status as pests in all plant groups, crops, ornamentals, trees and weeds.
Several organisations* in Kenya including CABI, and in conjunction with the UK’s Natural History Museum, have joined forces to train up to 30 new extension officers whose role will include identifying scale insects and communicating theirs risks and how they can be managed with smallholder farmers.
Woody plant species have been deliberately introduced into many arid and semi-arid regions across the world as they can help combat desertification and provide resources – like fuelwood – to the rural poor. But some of these alien trees and shrubs have become invasive, having devastating effects on other species as well as people.
This is big problem in the mainly arid Baringo County, in Kenya’s Rift valley as well as other counties north, east and south of the country.
A team of international scientists are collaborating to fight the noxious weed yellow toadflax (Linaria vulgaris) in Montana’s world-famous Rocky Mountains with the help of a tiny insect – the shoot-galling weevil Rhinusa pilosa.
Yellow toadflax, first introduced from Wales in the late 1600s as an ornamental and medicinal plant and to make textile dyes, is an aggressive invader listed as a noxious weed in more than 10 US states (including North and South Dakota, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon and Idaho) – which suppresses desirable vegetation through intense competition for limited soil moisture.
Since 2017, CABI and partners have launched a series of extension campaigns in Kenya and Uganda in the fight against the invasive pest fall armyworm. These campaigns used integrated ICT-enabled approaches combining radio, SMS, and community video screenings with the aim of improving awareness, knowledge and management practices for fall armyworm.
Although smallholder agriculture is the main contributor to agricultural production in Africa and vital to food and nutritional security, agricultural productivity generally remains low.
CABI has joined an international team of scientists calling for a Global Surveillance System (GSS) to fight a range of diseases which threaten priority crops including maize, potato, cassava, rice, beans and wheat.
The weevils arrived safely into their new home in Pakistan with “virtually no mortality” according to Dr Weyl. The insects have been put onto parthenium plants to start CABI’s own colony for host specificity testing of important plants in Pakistan.
A plant doctor inspects a farmer’s damaged maize at a recent plant clinic in Vietnam
During a recent visit to a plant clinic session in Vinh Phuc, Vietnam, first-hand evidence of this devastating invasive pest was shown to visiting CABI staff. A 76-year-old farmer, Madam Nguyen Thi Nam brought along damaged maize plant to seek advice from the plant doctor, Mrs Dang Thi Quynh Nga.