Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Preventing cassava devastation in Lao PDR

Vientiane, the Lao People's Democratic Republic, 17 Jan 2011 -- The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) has endorsed an FAO project to prevent substantial crop damage by an invasive pest, the cassava pink mealybug, in the Greater Mekong Subregion.

The regional technical assistance project will develop pest-spread prevention strategies and biocontrol options to manage the insect. The project is expected to be completed by December 2012.

The mealybug could represent a major threat to food and nutrition security in the Lao PDR, as cassava is used for human and animal food, as well as for bioenergy production. Although the current production of cassava in Lao PDR is limited, 152,590 tons in 2009, it is steadily increasing. Unconfirmed sightings of infestations in small isolated pockets of cassava cultivating areas in Vientiane have been reported.

The mealybug has ruined huge areas of cassava crops in Thailand in recent years. Outbreaks of the pest have spread across the country from the northeastern to the eastern provinces, and more recently also to the western provinces.

Thwe project will use biocontrol agents, such as the exotic parasitoid Anagyrus lopezi, together with ecological pest management training efforts to field workers and farmers, to successfully control the cassava mealybug, including stopping its further spread. Research and technical support will also be strengthened.

"We aim to provide the Lao Government with the tools to prevent spread and manage the mealybug. Project efforts will focus on capacity building for mass rearing of A. lopezi for field releases and the establishment of precautionary measures to prevent or delay the entry of the mealybug," said Serge Verniau, FAO Representative in Vientiane.

"We will also conduct Farmer Field Schools in order for the farmers to know how to effectively manage the mealybug and grow better cassava crops. The activities in Lao PDR will include in-country trainings of extension staff on mass production of A. lopezi and farmer training," he added.

FAO has proposed to undertake the project in six countries: Thailand, Cambodia, China PR, Myanmar, Vietnam and the Lao PDR.

Lao PDR’s agriculture-related industry plays an essential role in the national economy as well as for national food and nutrition security.

FAO continues to provide support to the Government of Lao to sustainable achieve their development goals.

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Press release issued by the Office of the FAO Representative in Lao PDR. For more information:
T: (856-21) 413 205, 414 503, 414 501, 450 455,
E: Siena Perry, Siena.Perry@fao.org