CABI scientist Dr Lakpo Koku Agboyi has outlined a range of opportunities for growth in the African biocontrol sector to fight crop pests and diseases as part of the Global Biocontrol Conference 2021 attended online by biocontrol experts from around the world.
Dr Agboyi, who is based at CABI’s centre in Ghana, delivered a presentation which updated stakeholders on what is already being done in Africa to increase the use of more safer-to-use and environmentally-friendly biocontrol products to tackle challenges which affect the livelihoods of millions of smallholder farmers.
He also spoke about the strength and weaknesses of the trade and adoption of biocontrol products in Africa as well as factors which could help drive their growth amongst smallholder farmers across the continent.
Current pests being managed include the fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) – where an AgBiTech/CABI partnership under the Action on Invasives programme in Kenya and South Sudan has seen the baculovirus product ‘Fawligen’ prove effective against the pest.
Dr Agboyi also highlighted how Acerophagus papayae, which is originated from Central America, was released in 2011 and has had a successful impact against the Papaya mealybug (Paracoccus marginatus) pest in West Africa.
He also drew attention to the Green Muscle™ product, created by CABI and produced and marketed by international biological control producers Éléphant Vert, which is being used to control locusts and grasshoppers in Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal.
Dr Agboyi said, “In Africa, food security is hampered by crop yield losses of up to 40% due to pests and diseases. Meanwhile, the chemical control of pests has been mainly adopted by famers and industries with limited results and, often, with many adverse effects on human health and the environment.
“Global attention has been brought to the use of more eco-friendly and cost-effective biocontrol options but their development relies upon continuous research and innovation as well as willingness for their adoption – particularly by smallholder farmers.”
In his presentation, Dr Agboyi highlighted the various types of biocontrol approaches – including conservation, augmentative, classical and microorganisms-based biopesticides – as well as who does research on biocontrol in Africa.
He outlined biocontrol success stories – such as the predator Teretrius nigrescens (Lewis) which, when released in 1990, proved effective control against the larger grain borer Prostephanus truncatus (Horn) and even raised awareness of the successes of the classical biocontrol of weeds in South Africa and East Africa.
For example, out of 103 biocontrol agent species introduced to control 51 weed species in South Africa, 70% have established and 75% of targeted weeds controlled (Schwarzländer et al.2018). The release of Neochetina eichhorniae and Neochetina bruchi, for instance, lead to the successful control of Water hyacinth in Lake Victoria in Uganda (Cock et al. 2000; Wilson et al. 2007).
Dr Agboyi added, “There are a number of areas in which we can improve the uptake of biocontrol products in Africa. These include focusing more on developing more biocontrol products based on endogenous bioagents and the adaptability and applicability of biocontrol products in Africa’s ecosystems.
We can also advocate for greater awareness through policy briefs, evidence notes, training and social marketing as well as regulatory harmonization and convergence across regions and countries.”
Samanta Fawcett, Head of Conference Production at the Global Biocontrol Conference 2021, said that while the biocontrol market has been growing significantly over the past few years, there is still uncertainty from within the industry on how to get these products effectively to market. Regulations, testing, registration and scaling up production continue to prove to be major challenges.
In her welcome message she said, “The best way to apply biological control agents is part of integrated pest management practices. While these will effectively present pests developing resistance and will also minimize the use of pesticides, they have been facing resistance from farmers as they are deemed to be less efficient than traditional chemical pesticides.”
She added that the conference sought to address these issues through the practical sessions, panel discussions and networking opportunities.
Main image: The pilot roll-out of biopesticide, Fawligen, to fight fall armyworm in South Sudan, as result of a partnership project between CABI and AgBiTech, CIMMYT, FAO, USAID and the South Sudan Ministry of Agriculture (Credit: CABI).
Dr Agboyi’s presentation
You can read Dr Agboyi’s presentation – ‘Opportunities for growth in the African biocontrol sector’ – on the SCRIBD platform here.
CABI BioProtection Portal
The CABI BioProtection Portal is a free, web-based tool that enables users to discover information about registered biocontrol and biopesticide products around the world. Available online, with an offline version coming soon, the CABI BioProtection Portal helps growers and agricultural advisors to identify, source and correctly apply biocontrol and biopesticide products against problematic pests in their crops. The portal can be accessed on multiple devices, thereby putting this valuable information at the fingertips of anyone who needs it.