Staple food crops such as maize, millet, legumes, roots and tubers and banana, and several horticultural crops including cabbage/kale, tomato, onion, mango and avocado, contribute significantly to food and nutritional security, household income and employment of more than 70% of the population in East Africa, especially women and youth. However, sustainable production of these agricultural and horticultural crops is constrained by losses due to indigenous and invasive pests, such as tomato leaf miner, African cereal stemborer, Diamondback moth, African bollworm, fruit flies, and, more recently, the fall Armyworm. Global annual yield loss due to diamondback moth alone is valued at US$ 1.3 billion, while an estimated USD 13.3 billion worth of crops in Africa are at economic risk due to fall army worm damage. Combined yield losses due to pest infestations are significant, especially in smallholder farms, sometimes leading to complete crop failure.
In the absence of effective alternative management options, smallholders rely on the indiscriminate use of synthetic pesticides, which are costly. Such high dependence on synthetic pesticides not only leads to negative environmental impacts on the crops and associated natural enemies, but it also reduces the nutritional value of the crop, and often leads to pests gaining resistance to the chemicals. Fungal biopesticides, have recently emerged as better alternatives to synthetic pesticides in Africa and globally. They rank better than other biopesticides because of attributes such as contact infection, easier mass production at both small-scale and commercial levels, ease of formulation and application, and relatively broader host range.
The biopesticides are potent fungal isolates from the region, which have proven to be effective in managing thrips, aphids, fruit flies and spider mites, and other new pests such as fall army worm and whiteflies.
- International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe), Kenya
- Busitema University, Uganda
- University of Nairobi (UON), Kenya
- The Real IPM Company Ltd., Kenya
- Kenya Biologics, Ltd., Kenya
- Hottiserve East Africa Ltd, Kenya
Dr Sevgan Subramanian – International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe), Kenya