The Integrated Pest Management Innovation Lab recently promoted two workshops aimed at fighting invasive pests that threaten farmer livelihoods across the developing world. A three-day workshop, Tuta absoluta — meeting the challenge of the tomato leafminer, was held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from Nov. 26-28, and a four-day workshop, Invasive mealybugs in Southeast Asia: ecological insights to facilitate control, was held in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam from Dec. 8-11, 2013. Both workshops drew scientists from around the world.
As movements of humans and pests across the globe have accelerated in recent times due to modern modes of transportation and the increased commercialization of vegetable crops, farmers in developing countries are finding themselves increasingly at a loss in dealing with new and unfamiliar pests. These invasive species are severely affecting agricultural, forest, and urban ecosystems. In the United States alone, biotic invasions are estimated to cost $137 billion dollars annually.
One of the most devastating is the tomato leafminer. This tiny moth, the size of an eyelash, is a native of Latin America, where it evolved over millennia with natural enemies that kept it in check. In 2006, the insect crossed the Atlantic and was identified in Spain. From there, it spread throughout most of Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, Senegal, Sudan, and Ethiopia.
“The purpose of the Tuta absoluta workshop was to alert Eastern African and South Asian countries of this impending problem, and to develop strategies, including biocontrol methods, to deal with it,” said Muni Muniappan, director of the USAID-funded Integrated Pest Management Innovation Lab. Representatives from the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology, based in Nairobi, Kenya participated in this workshop.