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November 5th, 2018 / The Guardian, UK

Plague of caterpillars threatening food crisis may be halted with safe pesticides
Study suggests biopesticides should be trialled to control the march of armyworm that’s destroying crops across the continent.

Experts have identified safer, effective pesticides they believe can control a plague of caterpillars that is devastating crops across Africa.

Many farmers are attempting to control armyworm – a pest that feasts on maize, rice and sugarcane – through the use of highly hazardous pesticides. But researchers warn such chemicals risk severe harm to health and to the environment, and that farmers should be offered sustainable alternatives.

A comprehensive study of biopesticides, which tend to be less toxic, has identified eight alternatives that can control the caterpillars. Such biopesticides could be provisionally registered by governments while trials are completed, the report authors said.

“Maize is a staple crop in Africa and millions depend on it for their food. This is a food security issue,” said Roger Day, programme executive, Action on Invasives, at the Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (Cabi).

“Most of [the biopesticides] we’ve identified are already registered, but for other pests, so all we need to show is that they’re effective against armyworm,” said Day. This is highly likely, he added, since many products are already being used elsewhere in the Americas. Read more