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March 23rd, 2018 / The Conversation

Insect pests cause almost half of the crop losses in Africa. If the continent is to feed its growing population, farmers must find ways to control them. Pests account for high losses in other developing regions too.

For smallholder farmers in particular, pest management needs to be affordable, safe and sustainable. It should avoid the drawbacks of synthetic pesticides as far as possible. Research is now showing that integrated approaches can achieve these goals.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, for example, recently launched a comprehensive guide that will help millions of smallholder farmers across Africa to manage the fall armyworm. This is a new insect pest in over 30 African countries and a serious threat to maize crops, a staple food.

The guide suggests using biological control and local remedies rather than insecticides that can work in an emergency but may be ineffective and harmful in the longer run.

This is a good example of how farmers can be encouraged to balance the use of insecticides with other forms of pest control. Read more