Posts Tagged ‘IITA’


27th April 2015

The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA)
The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) is expected to request about USD 200,000 from the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to contain a new destructive pest which is rapidly spreading through the coastal areas of Tanzania around Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar, attacking important food crops such as pawpaws and cassava as well as ornamental plants like hibiscus and frangipani.

The pest has been identified by scientists at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) as the pawpaw (commonly known as papaya) mealybug (Paracoccus marginatus), according to a press statement issued by the institute’s Tanzania office in Dar es Salaam recently.

In recent years, this highly invasive pest has also been spreading and causing damage in many Asian and West African countries.

With its origin in Mexico, it was first observed on the African continent in Ghana in 2010 from where it spread to Benin, Nigeria, Togo and Gabon.

The discovery of the mealybug in Tanzania means that the rest of East Africa will now likely be affected as well, the statement said.
Describing their nature, the statement said the pests are tiny, white and flat which sap the life out of the plants.

Their preferred hosts are pawpaws, but they also affect a wide range of crops including cassava, beans, coffee, pepper, melons, guavas, tomatoes, eggplants, cotton and jatropha.

If not controlled, it said, the pest may result in massive damage and loss of livelihoods for many farmers in the country.

The pawpaw mealybugs appear as white fluffy spots on the undersides of leaves, branches and fruit, and are often accompanied by an unsightly black, sticky substance coating these surfaces – a result of a sugary excretion by the pests which attracts mould.

The affected plants don’t grow properly, and farmers are unable to sell the often misshapen, discoloured and, in severe cases, completely shrivelled fruits.

According to IITA entomologist Dr James Legg, one of the scientists leading efforts to contain the pest after first noticing its damage at his home garden, the pawpaw mealybug is currently one of the most destructive and rapidly spreading invasive insect species.

“In Tanzania we have observed the pests along the coastal belt around Dar es Salaam and its environs, mostly on pawpaws, cassava and ornamental plants such as hibiscus and frangipani. But we need to carry out a survey throughout the country to determine the full extent of spread and the range of plants affected,” he said in recent remarks.

“Samples sent to IITA’s Biological Control Centre for Africa, located in Cotonou, Benin, have been positively identified as the pawpaw mealybug by the institute’s entomologist, Dr George Goergen,” Dr Legg said.

“Now that we know what we are dealing with, we need to act fast. The pest can easily spread throughout the East African region causing major damage and threatening the food security and incomes of tens of thousands of Tanzanian farmers,” he added.

The mealybugs are easily blown by the wind or transported by ants from one plant to another, and are transported longer distances by people who unknowingly carry infested plants or fruit from one part of the country to another, or from country to country.

Efforts are under way from IITA, the Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives ministry, and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to mobilise funds to use biocontrol agents to contain the pest before it gets out of hand, the statement said.

This involves introducing natural enemies of the pest such as parasitoids – extremely tiny insects that lay their eggs inside the pawpaw mealybug. As the eggs hatch, tiny worm-like “larvae” emerge, which then eat the mealybug from the inside out.

According to Elibariki Nsami from the National Biological Control Programme of the Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives ministry, using biological control is the only effective way to manage the pest menace. Most pesticides are not effective since these mealybugs coat themselves with a protective wax, he said.

“The biocontrol mechanisms are safe as they are very specific and only attack the pawpaw mealybug. They are also cheap, cost-effective, and safe for the environment,” he added.

Experts say it will also be important to set up a surveillance system to track the spread of the pest in the country and the wider region and to create awareness among the farmers and larger public on how to control it.

IITA is one of the world’s leading research partners in finding solutions for hunger, malnutrition and poverty.

Its agricultural research for development (R4D) addresses the needs of the poor and vulnerable in the tropics.

It works with public and private sector partners to enhance crop quality and productivity, reduce risk to producers and consumers and generate wealth from agriculture.

The institute’s R4D covers biotechnology and genetic improvement, natural resource management, plant production and plant health, and social science and agribusiness.

For the last 45 years, IITA has focused on key tropical food crops such as bananas and plantains, maize, cassava, soybeans, cowpeas, tree crops and yams.

It is determined to use research in improving food security, increasing the profitability of foods and other agricultural products, reducing risks to producers and consumers, and helping national entities expand agricultural growth.



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Millions of smallholder banana farmers in Tanzania and Uganda are set to benefit from a new $13.8 million project to develop and distribute higher-yielding, disease-resistant hybrid banana varieties. The effort is being funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA). Rony Swennen, a professor at KU Leuven and head of banana breeding at IITA, is leading the project.

Bananas are both a food staple and an economic backbone in East and Central Africa, where over half of all cultivated land is planted with bananas. Uganda and Tanzania produce over 50% of all bananas grown in Africa. The region’s yearly banana crop is valued at $4.3 billion.

However, banana production in Uganda and Tanzania achieves just 9% of its potential yield due to pests and diseases, posing a serious threat to the future sustainability of banana production in the region.

A new five-year project aims to dramatically upscale and speed up existing banana breeding efforts in the two countries. The researchers expect their hybrid banana varieties to have a 30% higher yield and a 50% higher resistance to at least three of the target pests and diseases compared to the current varieties grown by the farmers under the same on-farm conditions. The varieties will also meet over 90% of the quality traits for consumers found in the current cultivars, say the researchers.

“One of the most effective ways to increase production of any crop is to plant high-yielding varieties,” says Professor Rony Swennen. “This new project will expand the on-going breeding efforts in Uganda and Tanzania by developing research capacity and bringing expertise from other countries. Hence farmers will get faster access to high-yielding, high-resistance hybrids that are at the same time satisfactory to the consumer.”

The project builds on a very successful collaboration between IITA and Uganda’s National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO), which culminated in the development of the first 26 high-yielding, and disease-resistant hybrid varieties, called NARITA varieties.

The project will also support the on-farm testing of these hybrids in Uganda and Tanzania, will improve the technical capacity of the breeding programmes in the region, will strengthen partnerships with farmers, and will develop local human capacity by supporting 8 PhD projects and 5 MSc research projects.

The IITA, Bioversity International and the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas are also providing substantial co-financing.

For more information:
Rony Swennen
KU Leuven
Tel: +32 16 32 14 20
Email: Rony.Swennen@biw.kuleuven.be

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May 30th, 2014
A development strategy to fight and contain a potentially deadly outbreak of the Tropical Race (TR4) strain of Panama Disease in Mozambique is being put together by a team of delegates who gathered in Africa last month to discuss a tactical approach to suppressing the banana disease so it doesn’t spread elsewhere on the continent. At www.freshfruitportal.com we reveal details of the workshop program ahead of an in-depth report to be published later this year.

Over the last few weeks a delegation of banana experts has been involved in discussions centering on the spread of TR4 to the African continent.

Since the fungus was discovered on a Matanuska banana plantation 15 months ago, a team of experts has joined forces to set up educational programs, while it is understood that a ‘continental action plan’ is currently being drafted.

Key players include the South African research institute Stellenbosch University, the South African Development Community (SADC), the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The program is also being supported and part funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF).

“When symptoms of yellowing and wilting of Cavendish bananas that appeared to be spreading were observed in an export plantation in northern Mozambique in February 2013, few would have expected the immense challenges that the following 12 months would bring,” the group has said in an initial report obtained by www.freshfruitportal.com.

“Once the cause of the symptoms was established, business became unusual for many on the continent, and indeed globally, as banana producers and their associated organizations started looking for answers to their questions and for measures to protect their crops.

“The development of a continental action plan to protect bananas in Africa became priority. Foc TR4 is not new to the banana world anymore. It has been ravaging Cavendish plantations and some local banana varieties in Asia for more than two decades.”

The document highlighted that bananas were a staple food for millions of people in Africa, and therefore it was necessary to form not only a containment strategy for the affected farm, but to make the whole continent prepared against a spread and possible reintroduction.

“This is exactly what the African meeting on TR4 intends to achieve,” the report adds.

It goes on to explain the considerable damage to Cavendish bananas and other locally-grown varieties in other countries around the world and how Mozambique needs to manage the disease outbreak.

“To prepare African countries reliant on banana for food and security and income generation, it is necessary to implement a series of informed interventions. The first priority is to contain the outbreak in northern Mozambique and prevent its spread across the region and to neighbouring countries.

“The second phase of activities is to prepare other countries dependent on banana against future incursions of this disease through enhanced plant bio-security frameworks and research capacity.

“Different types of banana germplasm, reflecting the diversity cultivated in Africa, require screening for resistance to Foc TR4, and the appropriate adoption and delivery pathways developed to provide resistant planting materials to hundreds of millions of Africans who depend on the crop for food security and income generation.”

The full report will contain further information including scientific advances and research approaches to detect and manage TR4, the potential impact TR4 will have on food availability in Africa, trans-boundary plant pest management in Africa, a mapping of the risks of any potential spread, and an overall official strategy to manage its control which sets out clear roles and responsibilities for all the institutions involved.

“This is not a task that a single research group or country can achieve. The discovery of TR4 in Mozambique is not a company or country issue. It is a continental issue which needs to be addresses by research organizations, national plant protection organizations, universities and governments throughout Africa,” the report goes on to say.

“The opportunity to develop a strategy and coordinate efforts on the continent has been made possible by much appreciated sponsorship and we thank the organizations for recognizing the importance of the outbreak and for enabling us to develop a combined strategy to deal with it.”

Meanwhile there has been somewhat of a global focus on maintaining TR4 Panama Disease this year with the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations hosting a forum in Rome recently to outline the threat it poses to the international banana industry, food security and economies.

Chiquita CEO Ed Lonergan has also praised the global banana industry for its efforts to deal with TR4 and warned it would be prudent to prepare for life without the Cavendish.



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Pour Manuele Tamò, entomologiste agricole, les bio-pesticides sont meilleurs et plus sûrs que les pesticides chimiques, et les décideurs politiques devraient les promouvoir davantage

L’agriculture est, et restera pour les années à venir, le principal moteur du développement économique en Afrique. Des légumes constituent une importante source de revenus et de nutrition, comme le niébé en Afrique de l’Ouest ou le haricot ordinaire en Afrique de l’Est.

Les cultures maraîchères et horticoles deviendront bientôt plus importantes en raison de l’urbanisation croissante. Mais elles sont en proie à des insectes ravageurs et aux maladies qui peuvent réduire les rendements de près de 80 pour cent.

Les agriculteurs ont souvent recours à l’utilisation de pulvérisations de pesticides chimiques pour atténuer ce problème. Mais les pesticides sont généralement appliqués sans prise des précautions élémentaires de sécurité, comme par exemple se protéger contre les pulvérisation, ou sans respect du dosage approprié et des intervalles entre les applications.

Le problème est aggravé par les stratégies agressives de vente, lorsque les détaillants ciblent les producteurs qui savent à peine lire et écrire pour leur vendre des pesticides toxiques de qualité douteuse, parfois inappropriés — destinés par exemple à être utilisés sur le coton, et non sur les légumes.

En conséquence, les pesticides peuvent présenter des risques pour la santé des consommateurs, l’environnement, et les producteurs. On recense ainsi des effets secondaires aigus et chroniques, dont le développement de maladies de la peau et neurologiques. L’utilisation sans distinction d’insecticides à large spectre peut par ailleurs anéantir les ennemis naturels des ravageurs.

La plupart des producteurs ignorent les moyens naturels par lesquels les ravageurs et les maladies peuvent être gérés. Pourtant, les bio-pesticides – dérivés des plantes ainsi que des micro-organismes comme les virus et les champignons – n’ont pratiquement aucun impact néfaste sur la santé humaine et l’environnement.

Les avantages des bio-pesticides

Préparés et utilisés correctement, les bio-pesticides peuvent être aussi efficaces que les pesticides classiques. Mais leur action insecticide est plus lente, de quelques jours, et pour des agriculteurs habitués à voir des insectes morts une heure après l’application d’un pesticide chimique, cela peut être une préoccupation essentielle qui nécessite une explication minutieuse.

Des programmes de formation en utilisation de bio-pesticides offrent souvent des parcelles sur lesquelles les agriculteurs peuvent comparer le traitement chimique contre le traitement aux bio-pesticides — un outil essentiel pour l’éducationsur l’efficacité des biopesticides.

A la fin de la saison de culture, les bio-pesticides protègent bien les cultures, qui fournissent alors le même rendement que les traitements chimiques. Cela a été démontré par des essais en ferme utilisant le champignon Beauveria bassiana contre la fausse-teigne des crucifères Plutella xylostella, un parasite du chou.

La lenteur de l’action insecticide des bio-pesticides est désormais un problème moindre, avec le développement par certains des plus importants parasites de l’agriculture d’une résistance aux pesticides chimiques.

Les insectes ont ainsi développé des mécanismes de détoxification suite à l’utilisation excessive des agriculteurs des mêmes substances chimiques. Ce phénomène est particulièrement bien documenté pour la fausse-teigne des crucifères ; elle est maintenant résistante à presque tous les insecticides commerciaux.

En revanche, la résistance n’est pas un problème avec l’utilisation des bio-pesticides ; jusqu’à présent, aucun signe n’existe en ce sens. Et cela pour deux bonnes raisons.

D’abord, si des organismes vivants comme des champignons ou virus spécifiques à certains insectes sont déployés comme bio-pesticides contre un ravageur, ils pourront co-évoluer pour contre-attaquer l’organisme cible si celle-ci tente de développer une résistance.

Ensuite, les extraits végétaux utilisés dans les bio-pesticides contiennent plusieurs substances actives ; il est bien plus difficile pour les insectes d’y développer une résistance comparé aux pesticides chimiques, dont la plupart ne compte qu’une ou deux molécules actives.

Le développement de la résistance des insectes aux pesticides chimiques a été largement constaté, de sorte que même les agriculteurs analphabètes prennent conscience qu’il est préférable d’utiliser un bio-pesticide à action lente qu’un insecticide chimique.

La production locale

Les bio-pesticides peuvent être produits localement avec des matériaux bon marché et un équipement simple, et peuvent générer des revenus supplémentaires pour les ménages en favorisant la participation des femmes et/ou des jeunes chômeurs.

L’exemple récent de la production d’un baculovirus capable d’attaquer le ver de la capsule du coton en Inde démontre clairement la faisabilité d’une telle approche.

La production à une échelle communautaire de ce virus a été initialement financée par une subvention du ministère britannique du développement international. Mais elle s’est poursuivie au-delà de la fin du projet, poussant les organisations non gouvernementales (ONG), le secteur privé et même le gouvernement à mettre sur pied des unités de production.

Dans un autre exemple venant du Bénin, en Afrique de l’Ouest, l’ONG internationale SENS encourage des entreprises communautaires à aider les agriculteurs à co-investir dans la production de bio-pesticides.

Phileol-HVC, l’une de ces jeunes entreprises, commercialise déjà un mélange d’huile de neem et d’huiles essentielles sous la marque BioPhyto. Conçu pour la pulvérisation sur les cultures horticoles, il coûte une fraction du prix des pesticides synthétiques, et continue pourtant à présenter les avantages souhaités en ce qui concerne la lutte contre les ravageurs et la protection de l’environnement.

Intensifier leur utilisation

Dans ce cas, pourquoi davantage d’agriculteurs n’ont-ils pas recours aux biopesticides en Afrique ?

En Afrique de l’Ouest, la raison principale est leur manque de disponibilité dans le commerce. Certains agriculteurs peuvent connaître les avantages de l’utilisation d’extraits botaniques, comme l’absence d’effets secondaires dangereux, mais sont réticents à consacrer du temps et des efforts supplémentaires à leur production, en pleine saison de culture.

Cela est particulièrement vrai pour les hommes. Ainsi, l’implication des groupes de femmes ou des jeunes chômeurs dans la production des bio-pesticides, ainsi que des efforts pour les rendre abordables et de bonne qualité, pourraient aider à promouvoir leur utilisation.

Les institutions de recherche et les ONG doivent développer des matériels de formation appropriés en vue de soutenir l’utilisation, la production, et le contrôle de la qualité des bio-pesticides. En l’absence d’accréditation de laboratoire pour vérifier la qualité des bio-pesticides en Afrique, ce contrôle est aujourd’hui fait par les producteurs en Afrique – or ils ont besoin de matériels de formation appropriés.

De même, les vendeurs, les consommateurs et les décideurs politiques doivent être sensibilisés à la meilleure la qualité et la sécurité renforcée des produits traités avec des bio-pesticides.

Manuele Tamó est le Représentant pour l’Institut international d’agriculture tropicale au Bénin. Il peut être contacté à : m.tamo@cgiar.org.

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The Director General, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Dr Nteranya Sanginga, has said that there is need to go beyond rhetoric to action in dealing with negative consequences of climate change on agricultural production and productivity.

While noting that the negative consequences of climate change on agricultural are with us, he said resolutions must be implemented to save West and Central Africa.

Addressing national and international researchers attending a conference on Biotic stresses, climate change and agricultural production in Cotonou, Bénin, recently, Dr Sanginga noted that the emergence of agricultural pests such as the papaya mealybug was closely linked to climate change

“Whatever recommendations we make at this meeting, let’s work towards implementing them,” he said.

The Director General pinpointed to agricultural research and the capacity development of adequate human resources as the critical tools needed to tackle the challenges posed by climate change.

He cited the example of cassava pests (cassava mealybug) in which past research by IITA and partners had played a critical role in solving the problem and saving the crop from probable extinction in Africa.

The Interim Director General of AfricaRice, Dr Adama Traoré, pledged that his organization would support the implementation of the meeting recommendations, as they would go a long way in addressing agricultural productivity in the region.

Researchers at the conference said the impact of climate change on biodiversity linked to biotic stresses could have a deep impact on agricultural productivity.

For instance, studies suggest that climate change might adversely influence established biological control by curbing natural enemy-pest interactions.

Also, extreme climatic events may affect the benefits provided by living things in the soil ecosystem such as endophytes, rhizobia, and mycorrhiza.

“All these interactions need to be properly assessed and documented to develop and deploy preemptive and adaptation strategies,” said Dr David Arodokoun, the Director General of the National Institute of Agricultural Research of Bénin (INRAB).


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