The Crop Research Institute (CRI) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has released a laboratory- reared biological agent to effectively manage the fall armyworm (FAW) infestation on maize fields.
The egg parasitoids (Telenomus remus), which are very tiny insects, can multiply very fast and would, therefore, lay their eggs into the egg of the Fall Army Worms. Once a parasitoid lays its egg in the worm, the egg of the FAW will not hatch into a larva and eventually die. An advantage of the research is that one female Telenumus remus can lay about 240 eggs, meaning that, just one female can destroy about 240 individual FAWs.
The efficiency rate is 100 per cent compared to other insecticides used in controlling the FAW. This is because these parasitoids and the FAW live in the same environment so the organisms move naturally to suppress the actions of the worms. The ultimate aim is to limit the use of insecticides on maize fields and incorporate it with these natural enemies.
Dr Blankson Wadie Amoabeng, a Research Scientist, CSIR-CRI, and Principal Investigator of the Research, speaking to journalists after a laboratory inspection at Kwadaso near Kumasi, said the intention was to keep multiplying the parasitoids at the laboratory and then later send them to the farmers’ fields to release them. “Once the environmental conditions are suitable to the parasitoids, we expect them to live in the agro-ecology, establish and multiply.
In a few years to come, if farmers are able to use minimum insecticides on maize fields, then we expect the numbers of the parasitoids to multiply so that there will be a drastic reduction in fall armyworm infestation levels,” he assured.
Dr Wadie Amoabeng indicated that the accidental introduction of the fall armyworm in 2016 overwhelmed Ghana and the rest of Africa and there was a need for an immediate solution.
He explained that researchers realized that the introduction of synthetic insecticides had a lot of problems with human and animal poisoning, destruction of beneficial insects such as pollinators, contamination of water bodies, ecological impacts and pest resistance, among others.
“Even though it was managed under the use of synthetic insecticides, there was the need to look for alternative management options that were sustainable and environmentally friendly,” he stated
Biological control, he noted, was the most efficient pest management option, which was why in 2020, the Korea-Africa Food and Agriculture Cooperative Initiative (KAFACI) supported researchers to undertake a project to control FAW invasion.
The project is simultaneously happening in about 16 countries in Africa. The FAW, which was accidentally introduced in Ghana in 2016, posed a threat to sustainable maize production and food security.
Data at the CSRI-CRI indicates that Ghana had FAW-induced yield loss in maize of 27 per cent, translating into an economic loss of $177 million.