icipe research featured on BBC

July 2016: icipe’s research towards increasing agricultural productivity in Africa has been featured on BBC World News, Horizons programme, in an episode titled ‘Healthy Harvests’ (Link: http://www.bbc.com/specialfeatures/horizonsbusiness/seriessix/healthy-harvests/?vid=p0400hrw)

Specifically, the episode highlights icipe’s accomplishments over the past several decades in using fungi-derived biopesticides to tackle fruit flies in Africa. In so doing, the Centre has contributed towards realising the potential of fruit cultivation across the continent, as a way of improving the incomes and nutritional security of many people and protecting the environment.

The development and dissemination of biopesticides is part of icipe’s integrated pest management (IPM) packages for fruit flies, which also includes baiting and male annihilation techniques,  biological control with parasitoids, cultural control through field sanitation, minimal use of pesticide in localised bait stations of spot spray, and proper post-harvest treatment to provide and assure quarantine security.

The icipe IPM packages are aimed towards reducing yield losses and the huge expenditure incurred by farmers to purchase pesticides. They are also intended to mitigate the health and environmental risks associated with the use (and misuse) of such chemicals. Overall, the IPM strategies should increase the market competitiveness of fruits from sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) and, as a result, elevate the income and livelihoods of people involved in the value chain.

A range of fungal based biopesticides developed by icipe in partnership  with Real IPM Ltd

The IPM packages have been developed by icipe in collaboration with partners from Africa, Asia, Europe and USA. The Centre’s fruit fly IPM activities commenced close to two decades ago, their basis laid  through support from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). Since then, funding has been obtained from: the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BEAF), implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ); the Biovision Foundation for Ecological Development, Switzerland;  the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations; the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA); the UK Department for International Development (DFID); the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the United States Department of Agriculture, Foreign Agriculture Service (USDA-FAS) in coordination with USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (UDA-APHIS) and the European Union (EU).

McPhail trap, used in the fruit fly IPM baiting technique 

Bactrocera dorsalis; a very destructive pest of a wide range of fruits

Background notes

Fruit flies attack fruits by laying their eggs into them. The eggs then hatch into maggots that feed on the decaying flesh of the fruits. Infested fruits quickly become rotten and inedible, eventually dropping to the ground. Many of the fruit fly species, whether exotic or native to Africa, are considered quarantine pests, resulting in the rejection of horticultural produce from the continent in export markets.  Most fruit growers are smallholders who often lack access to effective pest and disease control tools, forcing them to rely on synthetic insecticides. Such products are often ineffective, as the pests eventually become resistant to them. Synthetic pesticides also eliminate natural enemies that could biologically control a percentage of the pests. The indiscriminate and frequent use of chemicals is detrimental to the health of the growers, consumers and the environment. The European Union has also introduced the maximum residue level (MRL) legislation for pesticides on imported fruits and vegetables, which further hampers the export of produce from Africa. Overall, fruit flies are estimated to cause annual losses amounting to USD2 billion in Africa.

Globally, the replacement of synthetic pesticides with biological alternatives is seen as an ideal strategy towards sustainable agriculture and the conservation of biological biodiversity. In accordance, over the years, icipe has been screening the effectiveness of entomopathogenic fungi against fruit flies. Entomopathogenic fungi are naturally-occurring pathogens that are known to specifically attack pests and vectors, cause infections in them, either killing or seriously disabling them. Because they do not produce toxic residues, entomopathogenic fungi are safe for human beings and for the environment.

icipe’s research has led to the development of several biopesticides based on isolates of Metarhizium anisopliae, a fungus that grows naturally in the soil. Through a partnership with Real IPM Ltd, a Kenya-based private sector company, three icipe biopesticides have been commercialised as Campaign® or Met 69® (ICIPE 69), Achieve™ (ICIPE 78) and Met 62® (ICIPE 62). Other products in the pipeline are targeted at ticks – Met7® (ICIPE 7), tsetse flies, podborers including Maruca and Tuta absoluta.

Specifically, Campaign® has been found to be effective as a drench treatment to kill soil-dwelling stages of fruit flies, and the biopesticide has been registered, in Ethiopia, Kenya, Ghana, South Africa and Tanzania, where it is being used by farmers. The possibility of using Campaign® in an autodissemination strategy has also been demonstrated. In this case, adult fruit flies would be attracted to the biopesticide using visual, chemical or food lures. The pests would then pick up the fungal spores, becoming infected themselves, and before their own death, they would horizontally transmit the biopesticide spores to others, through mating, physical contact and lek formation (gathering together to attract females) by male flies. In field trials, a combination of Campaign® and DuduLure®, a bait developed by icipe in an autoinoculator, resulted in the suppression of 94.3% of fruit flies in mango orchards. In fields treated with the biopesticide, fruit infestation was 7.2%, compared to 54.9% in untreated orchards. These outcomes present one of the strongest possibilities for reducing synthetic chemical pesticide use in fruit fly control in Africa.