In West Africa, the resurgence of crop pests, such as the Fall Armyworm (FAW), severely limits producers’ efforts and threatens the production targets set by Governments to achieve food security every year. Since its appearance in 2016, the armyworm has spread to many countries and remains one of the main threats to agriculture and food security in Africa, causing a 73% yield loss on maize corresponding to $9.8 billion loss on the same cereal on which 208 million people in the region depend, according to an FAO 2021report on the effects of the armyworm.
In order to counter this new threat, FAO has initiated a three-year Global Action for the Control of the Fall Armyworm (GAC) to ensure a strong coordinated approach at national, regional and global levels. As part of this new FAO global initiative (called the Global Action on FAW), studies were conducted by researchers from Joseph Ki-Zerbo University and Nazi Boni University in Burkina Faso, a country that has been plagued by this Fall Armyworm invasion since 2017. Research on biological control options has yielded encouraging results that are favorable to the sustainable management of the armyworm in the country. These include the establishment of scientific databases for the adaptation of IPM technologies; the evaluation of the efficacy of local strains of entomopathogens against the FAW; the identification of FAW-tolerant varieties; evaluation of the biological control potential of local arthropod natural enemies; development of a methodology for mass production of the parasitoid Telenomus remus; evaluation of the efficacy of mass trapping (conventional traps) and the use of biopesticides.
The researchers recommend the intensification of field trials, especially in the pilot countries of the global action, the development of a cost-effective business plan for the cultivation and release of the parasitoid (Telenomus remus) involving the private sector, the strengthening of the operationalization of the regional coordination mechanism, the promotion of knowledge sharing and collaboration between countries, research institutions and the private sector.
The results of this FAO-supported research in Burkina Faso and the implementation of the recommendations will enable the West African pilot countries to take a giant step forward in the fight against the Fall Armyworm.
It is good to know that in Burkina Faso, one of the countries affected by FAW infestations, infested areas have increased from 58,234 ha in 2017/2018, to 102,684 ha in 2018/2019 and to 83,144 ha in the 2019/2020 agricultural season, according to data from the Direction de la Protection des Végétaux et du Conditionnement of Burkina Faso. Infestation rates vary each year between 5% and 90% or even 100% on some farms, leading to a drop in yields of 5 to 10% and, consequently, in agricultural production.