Biopesticides and Biocontrols

World’s leading experts on maize crop pests gather to share latest research to help safeguard food security

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11 May 2023, Kenya: More than 70 of the world’s leading experts on maize crop pests have shared the very latest research to help safeguard food security as part of the 28th International Working Group of Ostrinia and other maize pests (IWGO) Conference.

Scientists from Canada, China, the USA and various countries in Europe and Africa, gathered to present their research and recommendations on how to tackle maize insect pests including the fall armyworm and the western corn rootworm.

The International Organization of Biological Control (IOBC) – the parent organization of IWGO – co-hosted the conference together with the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) in Nairobi, Kenya. They were supported by CABI’s regional centre for Africa. CABI was also a gold sponsor of the event as well as MARA-CABI Joint Laboratory for Bio-safety.

The conference was convened by Dr Ulrich Kuhlmann, Executive Director, Global Operations at CABI, and co-convened by Dr Tom Sappington, of the United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS), and Professor Wang Zhenying of the Institute of Plant Protection, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS).

Also in attendance at the opening ceremony were Dr Dennis Rangi, CABI’s Director General, Development, and Dr Morris Akiri, Senior Regional Director, Africa at CABI.

The IWGO is a global working group which has been meeting since 1968 to see how science can help protect maize – a staple food source for 900 million people in developing countries who earn less than US $2 a day.

Scientists, which included those from CABI’s Kenya, Ghana, Zambia, UK, China and Swiss centres, discussed the successes and challenges of non-chemical control approaches, behaviour, ecology, and genomics of insects in maize agroecosystems.

Dr Kuhlmann said, “Maize is one of the most significant food crops in Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and Asia providing at least 30% of the food calories to more than 4.5 billion people in 94 developing countries.

“However, it is susceptible to the threats posed by a variety of crop pests including the fall armyworm and western corn rootworm which alone and together are among the most destructive pests of maize in the world.

“The IWGO Conference is an opportunity for some of the world’s leading expertise to share the very latest knowledge on new developments in the biological control of these crop pests which can severely impact upon yields, livelihoods and food security.”

Dr Marc Kenis, Head Risk Analysis and Invasion Ecology, organised a session on day one looking at new developments in the biological control of the fall armyworm together with Dr Samira Mohamed of the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe).

In this session, Dr Lakpo Koku Agboyi, Project Manager – Invasive Species Management, presented on the effectiveness of some commercial biopesticides against fall armyworm in northern Ghana and their effects on larval parasitism rates.

Dr Patrick Fallet, who was co-supervised for his PhD by CABI’s Dr Stefan Toepfer, in the same session, spoke about a gel formulation of entomopathogenic nematodes to control caterpillars of the fall armyworm as an alternative to chemical pesticides.

Later on in the session, Dr Kenis himself then spoke about high parasitism on fall armyworm in Africa and Asia – asking where do all these parasitoids come from? Dr Dirk Babendreier, Integrated Crop Management Advisor, ended the session by looking at how to make augmentative biological control of the fall armyworm work.

On day three of the conference Dr Feng Zhang, Regional Director, East & South-East Asia, organised a session considering integrated pest management approaches and solutions for fall armyworm. This was also co-organised by Professor Wang Zhenying and Dr Amanuel Tamiru of icipe.

In this session, Léna Durocher-Granger, Project Scientist, Entomologist, highlighted the effect of planting dates on fall armyworm infestation and its parasitoids before Rhian Whelan, Biopesticides Technician at CABI, then spoke about preliminary studies on the use of Metarhizium rileyi for control of fall armyworm in Zambia.

Furthermore, Dr Ivan Rwomushana, Senior Scientist, Invasive Species Management, presented on a novel approach for the management of the fall armyworm for smallholder farmers using virus extract from larvae treated with baculovirus under field conditions.

Later in the session, Dr Lakpo Koku Agboyi joined Dr Jerry Asalma Nboyine, of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research-Savannah Agricultural Research Institute (CSIR-SARI), to talk about an assessment of the optimal frequency of insecticide sprays required to manage fall armyworm in northern Ghana.

Finally, Dr Zhang presented on the attraction of fall armyworm to a host plant volatile compound with potential development of enhanced pheromone lure used in the field.

Professor Theophilus M. Mutui, Managing Director, KEPHIS, said, “We anticipate that the outputs of this conference will help identify solutions for management of the different maize pests, including successes and challenges of non-chemical control approaches, behaviour, ecology, and genomics of insects in maize agroecosystems which will be key to Kenya and Africa.

“Further the conference has identified constraining factors and investments needed for management of the pests of interest and creation of a strong network. The wealth of knowledge, experiences, expertise and technology I see in the representation in this conference and the line-up of the program is what we need.

“It is very critical for each participant to openly provide the lessons learnt from previous projects while considering the national, regional and international governance and coordination mechanisms.”

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