The 'net' is closing in on more viable biological control agents to fight the scourge of the fall armyworm (FAW) pest which is already wreaking havoc in most African countries as well as more than a dozen Asian countries including China and India.
CABI scientists teamed up with colleagues from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the Plant Protection and Regulatory Services Directorate (PPRSD) in Ghana to conduct new research which is another step closer to finding more biological control options to fight the FAW menace.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of United Nations (FAO) states that, based on 2018 estimates from 12 African countries, up to 17.7 million tonnes of maize could be lost annually to FAW on the continent—enough to feed tens of millions of people. The most direct impact of these losses falls on smallholder maize farmers, most of whom rely on the crop to stave off hunger and poverty.
Lead authors Dr. Lakpo Koku Agboyi, Dr. Georg Goergen and Dr. Marc Kenis led new research which focused on exploring the parasitoid complex of the FAW in Ghana and Benin where 10 species were found to have parasitized the pest. These included two egg parasitoids, one egg-larval, five larval and two larval-pupal parasitoids. In similar surveys carried out in Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania, seven parasitoid species were collected.
Outlining their findings in the journal Insects, the authors showed that the three most abundant parasitoids in both countries were two Braconidae: the egg-larval parasitoid Chelonus bifoveolatus and the larval parasitoid Coccygidum luteum, as well as the egg parasitoid Telenomus remus.
Dr. Agboyi, who is based at CABI's centre in Ghana, said, "We determined the larval parasitism rates in three Ghanaian regions and averages varied from 5% to 38% between regions, with up to 75% parasitism found at single locations. This data provides an important baseline for the development of various biological control options for fall armyworm."