When science meets sustainability: natural predator to fight tuta absoluta in an environmental friendly way
When last summer Sudanese farmers from Kassala could harvest their tomato crops, their enthusiasm had no limits. The last three years were not easy for them: Kassala, like other villages and states in Sudan, were hit by the tomato borer (Tuta absoluta), which is considered one of the most serious pests of tomato crops.
Tuta absoluta was responsible for severe economic losses across the country, and an increase in cost of production and prices of tomatoes. This year, the harvest was successful thanks to new irrigation equipments and agriculture inputs provided by the FAO Integrated Food Security Project (IFSP).
IFSP is a rural development project funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and implemented by FAO in close cooperation with UNIDO and in collaboration with Kassala state’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Irrigation and Livestock. It’s goal is to improve food and nutrition security of the targeted population in Kassala, especially women and young people.
Nevertheless and as the Tuta absoluta has developed resistance to various insecticides, IFPS decided to undertake, in partnership with the “Kassala and Gash Research Station,” an on-farm study to identify various means of biological and chemical pest control.
The research revealed the existence of a natural predator, Nesidiocoris tenius, a mirid bug, which is a worldwide used biological control agent. This predator could help fight this leafminer by attacking its eggs at larval stages with no or little damage to the crop.
“The timely and effective response of the IFSP to the Tuta Absoluta emergency in Sudan is something FAO has to be proud of. Tuta absoluta is a pest widely spread across the country and finding a solution to it directly translates in a contribution to the food security of Sudan: tomatoes are a staple food consumed mainly by poor people across the country,” said Anton Gleaser, Senior Porject Cpordinator, IFSP.
“We appreciated the role that FAO/IFSP played in funding on- farm trials if Kassala and Gash Research Station which will reflect on the prosperity of farmers in the region,” said Mohammedelnazeir Elfadil, Director of Kassala and Gash Research Station.
The finding of the study has been shared at the 88th Meeting of Pests and Diseases Committee in May 2013. The next step is to seek for possibilities of mass rearing, augmentation and release of the bug in an environmentally sustainable manner.