Smart cereals for management of stemborer pests in staple cereals in Africa

The project is investigating genetic markers associated semiochemicals emitted by different crop varieties after insects lay eggs on them, and insect responses to plant semiochemicals. Stemborers are devastating insect pests of important food crops, maize and sorghum, in sub-Saharan Africa. Past research by the icipe push-pull research team demonstrated that crop losses can be prevented through behavioral manipulation of stemborers. Recently, certain farmer selected varieties of maize were found to have a valuable defense trait not present in commercial hybrid maize. The trait involves release of odours, called semiochemicals, which are attractive to natural enemies of the pest after the stemborer lays her eggs on the plant. The semiochemicals released are the same ones released by companion plants in the push-pull system. To deliver this natural pest resistance to the farmer, breeding programmes are needed to move the trait into improved crop varieties. This is a difficult process but would be greatly facilitated if genetic markers linked closely to the stemborer resistance trait could be identified.

Donors: Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, UK, through Rothamsted Research

Collaborators: ICRISAT