Stories tagged: CIMMYT

Farmers Need Long-Term and Short-Term Solutions to Combat Fall Armyworm in Kenya

Fall Armyworm has arrived in Kenya to stay, but while the government develops a long-term strategy, farmers need ready and accessible solutions now.

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.

This year, the losses could be as high as 50 per cent, threatening Kenya’s food security and farmers’ economic security in a country where the average annual consumption of maize surpasses 100kg per person. Continue reading

How Fall Armyworm Can Be Beaten in Africa

B.M. Prasanna, Director of the Global Maize Program at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), believes that the fall armyworm on the move in sub-Saharan Africa can be beaten. In this guest blog for Farming First, he outlines the actions that must be urgently taken to protect African harvests from the plight of this pest.

Fall armyworm is one of the most destructive insect pests worldwide, and it is on the move. In 2015, this pest migrated for the first time to Nigeria. As of today, its devastation has been reported in 30 countries in Africa.

Estimates in September 2017 showed that just in six African countries, the pest has devastated almost 1.5 million hectares of maize crops. Without proper management, over the next one to two years, fall armyworm is expected to cause up to six billion dollars worth of damage across affected maize growing regions in sub-Saharan Africa.

Why is it such a majorly concerning pest? The first, most important reason is that fall armyworm is very highly poliphagus – which means the pest can attack not just one or two crops, but as many as 80 different plant species. Second, it can migrate very fast. Each moth population can travel up to 1,500 km.

Fall armyworm attacking crops in Zimbabwe. Photo credit: CIMMYT/M. Shindler

Fall armyworm attacking crops in Zimbabwe. Photo credit: CIMMYT/M. Shindler

In case of America, where fall armyworm has been present but under control, it usually migrates to warmer weather in the winter. But in Africa, the weather conditions are quite conducive for the pest to remain in certain countries for a long time. This means fall armyworm is here to stay in sub-Saharan Africa. So we need to know how to adopt from various practices that have been followed elsewhere, tailor them to African agro-ecologies and sustainably manage the pest.

Raising farmer awareness on effective pesticide use and cultural control

The first, most important action that must be taken, is to raise awareness among farming communities on how to make wise decisions on application of pesticides. It is critical to apply the right kind of pesticide, at the right stage. This is when the larvae is within the first three of its six stages of development – in the final three stages larvae have become very big, and can protect themselves from coming into contact with the pesticide.

We must also create awareness amongst extension agents and the farming communities on what exactly this pest is, how not to panic, how to recognize the early stages during the early crop growth, and apply the right types of pesticides.

There are also certain cultural control efforts which need to be validated and quickly disseminated. For example – each larvae lays as many as 1000 to 1500 eggs each month, and these are laid in batches of around 200-300 eggs. These could be very easily recognized even with the naked eye on the leaves. If a farmer is trained to understand how to recognize those egg masses, then destroying them means you are destroying 300 potential larvae. So understanding what these egg masses look like, and quickly collecting and destroying them will be key.

Stepping up research on control measures and host plant resistance

The second most important aspect is to urgently carry out strategic research on control measures, such as biological control options. For example, there are many pesticides derived from naturally occuring bacterias and viruses that could be helpful, such as Basilothrongulences  pesticides, Neem based bio pesticides, as well as egg and larvae paracetoids that are known to be very effective against fall armyworm outside Africa. So the capacity to quickly validate these options, to scale them up and release them is an extremely important action.

In a more long-term approach, institutions like CIMMYT are also intensively working on host plant resistance. Making use of historic research, we are now extensively testing maize and wheat varieties against the fall armyworm populations in Africa and we have got some very promising sources of resistance which we will be validating very soon.

But this will not be immediately available, the seeds for resistant varieties need to be identified, validated, and then systematically seed needs to be scaled up and deployed. But we must remember, this pest is unfortunately here to stay for decades. So we are running a marathon here, not a 100 meter sprint. We must conserve our energy to ensure we reach the finish line, employing both short and long-term solutions.

Fall armyworm found on crops in Zimbabwe. Photo credit: CIMMYT/M. Shindler

Fall armyworm found on crops in Zimbabwe. Photo credit: CIMMYT/M. Shindler

A manual for action

CIMMYT, in partnership with USAID and a number of research and development partners, national and international partners is working to produce a comprehensive manual on fall armyworm pest management in Africa. It will focus on six topics: how to apply integrated pest management to fall armyworm management; fall armyworm monitoring and surveillance; cultural control and sustainable agro-ecological approaches for fall armyworm management; biological control options; host plant resistance and sustainable pesticide use. The manual will be available in January.

There is a tremendous coordination effort at the local, regional and continental level that is required in the years to come in order to make these things happen.

This pest is not to be treated as some localized problem, because of its rapidly migrating capacity. So monitoring and surveillance methods across the continent need to be intensified, we need to take advantage of digital tools or applications for the farmers to actively send messages about the pest in different parts of the countries or provinces, and how best to communicate with them about control measures. We must also urgently plug research gaps that examine the efficacy of certain interventions, and also ensure the best pesticides are registered and available for use across all countries.

All these things mean there has to be a very strong investment in research and development and in active outreach program and coordinated networking. I estimate that it could cost in the next four to five years no less than 200-300 million dollars per year.

CIMMYT is ready to stand with others; IITA, ICIPE, CABI, national programs, and the private sector, to beat this pest – with a unified and systematic approach, it can be done.

SDG 2.5 in 2 Minutes: Kevin Pixley, CIMMYT

Imagine visiting a supermarket displaying thousands of products, but none of them had a label? Hear about CIMMYT’s work to categorise germplasm in genebanks so scientists can quickly find solutions to shocks and stresses in our food supply chain.

Filmed as part of Farming Fist’s #SDG2countdown campaign, exploring SDG2.5 on protecting genetic diversity.

Music: Ben Sounds

NOV62016
1st International Agrobiodiversity Congress (IAC)

6th-9th November 2016

New Delhi, India

The IAC aims to provide a common platform for stakeholders, including farmers, scientists, policymakers and industry leaders to share their experiences and knowledge in agrobiodiversity management and genetic resource conservation. The Congress is being hosted by the Indian Society of Plant Genetic Resources and Bioversity International, and co-organized by CIMMYT and the Borlaug Institute for South Asia. Read more >>

Syngenta and CIMMYT Partner to Help Farmers Combat Crop Losses

As part of GCARD 2010, Farming First hosted a session entitled ‘Better Benefiting the Poor through Public-Private Partnerships for Innovation and Action.’ Within the discussions, our panel of experts addressed several case studies that present different ways that partnerships have helped to empower smallholder farmers around the world.

Marco Ferroni – Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture

The Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture (SFSA) in 2009 developed a two-year public-private partnership between Syngenta and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) to rapidly identify and map genetic markers for use in wheat resistance breeding against Ug99 stem rust, a fungal disease which can cause devastating crop losses.

The project, funded by the Foundation, will combine Syngenta’s plant genetic profiling expertise with the strengths of CIMMYT’s extensive field research to develop a genetic map of wheat stem rust resistance. This will culminate in the development of wheat varieties that can better resist the disease. The results from this project will contribute directly to the global efforts to combat stem rust, which are coordinated by the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative coordinated by Cornell University. The marker data arising from the research will be published.

This important collaboration brings together complementary skills and addresses a pressing need of farmers in many developing countries.  Ug99 stem rust, which first emerged in Uganda in 1999, is caused by the fungus Puccinia graminis.  It is currently spreading across Africa, Asia and the Middle East with potential to spread further, posing a serious risk to wheat, the world’s third most important food crop.

Along with rice, wheat is a major food crop and is crucial for global food security – it provides 500 kilocalories of food energy per capita per day in China and India, and can provide up to 50 percent of daily calorie uptake in Central and West Asia or North African countries. Wheat yields need to rise 1.6 percent each year to reach required global production levels by 2020, yet investments in wheat technology have lagged far behind those for other cereals.

The scientific objectives of this project are:

1) To identify, characterize and map Durable Plant Resistance Quantitative Trait Loci conferring tolerance to stem rust resistance in wheat.

2) To identify molecular markers flanking the chromosomal regions containing these durable genes to be subsequently used in marker assisted trait selection.

3) To characterise the Sr2 gene complex and understand how this complex of gene(s) interacts with other important genes in wheat.

Public-Private Partnership to Improve Maize Yields in Africa

The Improved Maize for African Soils Project (IMAS) has been set up to improve African farmers’ access to maize varieties that are better adapted at capturing fertilizer. By developing new varieties that are more efficient in nitrogen uptake, the project hopes to develop maize crops that have a 30-50% yield improvement over existing varieties.

Launched recently in February 2010, IMAS is a project led by CIMMYT, a not-for-profit research centre working to improve maize and wheat crops, and is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and USAID. Partners include the DuPont business Pioneer Hi-Bred, the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) of South Africa and the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), who will all bring their expertise to help address the critical problem of increasing yields in poor soils.

The principal constraints on African maize yields are low soil fertility and low use of chemical fertilizers. Fertilizer use is constrained by high prices of fertilizers, which can be up to five times those in the USA. For the little fertilizer that is used, often no more than half of it is captured by the crop, the rest being leached into the soil and lost.

The new varieties will allow farmers to grow more crops, of better quality, but without having to purchase and use more fertilizer. Those developing the new varieties will be using a range of innovation methods to produce the new IMAS products, the first of which will be available to farmers within the next four years.