Two heads may be better than one: using multiple methods in the fight against Tuta absoluta

T. absoluta
Tuta absoluta © Marja van der Straten

Tuta absoluta is a major invasive pest that causes devastating crop damage worldwide. Insecticides are heavily relied upon to help curb their numbers, but because of problems with increased insecticide resistance and the environmental impacts of insecticides, scientists are trying to find new ways of fighting this pest.

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CABI announces major commitments in fight against invasive species

The first expert panel; from left: Orlando Sosa (FAO), Chaona Phiri (Birdlife Zambia), Kabelo Brown (moderator) and Arne Witt (CABI)

Coinciding with its regional consultation with member states in Africa, CABI hosted a policy summit on invasive species in Gaborone, Botswana on 28 February. About 70 delegates representing policymakers, research, the private sector and civil society from across Africa gathered to learn about and discuss the impact of invasives as well as the technical and policy solutions required to defeat them.

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CABI scientist helps provide a comprehensive review of research on Tuta absoluta in Africa

Tuta absoluta  (tomato leafminer) larval damage on tomato (Lycop
Tuta absoluta (tomato leafminer) larval damage on tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum). Photo: Marja van der Straten, NVWA Plant Protection Service, Netherlands.

The South American tomato leafminer, Tuta absoluta, is a devastating invasive pest of tomato crops in several areas around the world, including Africa where the problem is greatest.  Given the wealth of research conducted on T. absoluta, a recent publication involving one of CABI’s scientists, Dr Marc Kenis, has compiled a comprehensive review of the current state of our knowledge and pinpointed important research areas for the future. Continue reading

New Fall Armyworm Portal features as part of CABI’s upgraded Invasive Species Compendium

faw

A new Fall Armyworm Portal, which includes the very latest reports and research regarding the devastating crop pest, now features as part of a major upgrade of CABI’s Invasive Species Compendium (ISC) launched today.

The portal, created as part of the CABI-led Action on Invasives programme – funded by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) and the Netherland’s Directorate-General for International Cooperation (DGIS) – is now an integral part of the ISC, which receives over 1.5 million visits a year.

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Using roundworms to manage the Tomato Leaf Miner

Tuta absoluta  (tomato leafminer) larval damage on tomato (Lycop
The tomato leaf miner, Tuta absoluta

Research recently published in the Journal of Economic Entomology has offered new insight into managing the tomato leaf miner (Tuta absoluta) using entomopathogenic nematodes (EPN). If the pest is not adequately managed, it can cause up to 100% crop loss in both field and green-house grown tomatoes. Also causing further concern is the increasing insecticide resistance the pest has shown to be developing.

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Five invasive pests cost African smallholders $1 billion every year

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Farmer clearing Parthenium from his field in the town of Gilgil George Achilla, Farmer, Kikopey, Kenya

New research by CABI reveals that just five invasive alien species are causing US$0.9 – 1.1 billion in economic losses to smallholder farmers across six eastern African countries each year, equating to 1.8% – 2.2% of total agricultural GDP for the region. These losses are expected to grow to $1.0 – 1.2 billion per year over the next 5-10 years, highlighting the urgent need for coordinated responses at regional, national and international levels. Continue reading

Tackling invasive species to protect farmer incomes and livelihoods

Elias Kamuga“I have suffered [crop] losses amounting to 90%. I have no other source of income apart from tomato farming. I was relying on this crop to feed my family. I have nothing to do now other than try to think of what to do next.”

Elias Kamuga, Farmer, Kenya

Elias is a smallholder farmer from Kenya. Every year he sells his tomato crop at the local market, which gives him enough money to feed his family. But the arrival of a tomato pest to his region in Kenya has stopped that. The pest – a moth called a tomato leaf miner or Tuta absoluta – was recently introduced to Africa. This pest is an invasive species, and is destroying people’s livelihoods.

In 2015, Elias started to notice his tomatoes were being damaged by this pest. He tried taking them to market, but customers said they had too many holes and spots and were no good. He could not sell his produce. He believes he lost 90% of his tomato crop to the pest, and had no other source of income. Elias tried fighting this tomato pest with chemicals but they did not work. Elias now has to find another way to earn money. Thousands of farmers are in his position.

Invasive species, like Tuta absoluta, are devastating livelihoods. Tomatoes are one of the most widely cultivated crops in sub-Saharan Africa, grown in the backyards of almost every home. This important cash crop and source of nutrition is now being threatened by the recent arrival of the pest.

Tuta absoluta is rapidly moving across the African continent, decimating crops in Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania. It has recently reached Nigeria, where a state of emergency has been declared – the pest has destroyed an estimated US$5.1 million of tomatoes and forced at least one major tomato processing plant to close. Growers do not know how to control it and many have abandoned tomato farming altogether. The race is on to prevent its spread with management schemes planned to limit its devastation.

Since 2014, CABI helped governments in Africa halt the Tuta absoluta threat and continues to do so. We are currently helping countries like Burundi, Kenya, Nigeria and Tanzania understand how they can best prepare prior to a pest invasion and are delivering practical knowledge on how to manage the pest once it has arrived. To address the recent severe outbreak in Kaduna State, Nigeria, we have provided the government with a technical brief on the tomato leaf miner together with available management experiences to help them develop a control strategy.

In 2015, we launched an important initiative to raise awareness of the threat of invasive species to the livelihoods of the rural poor. Our aim is to draw partners together from around the world to bring pest management solutions that exist already to the people who need them. We included Tuta absoluta as one of the priority targets for coordinated management. Our goal is to protect rural communities in developing countries from the devastating impacts of specific invasive species.

See Elias’ story.