Should we stop irrigating the drylands ?

Photo credit: SciDevNet

Copyright: Robin Hammond / Panos

Irrigation risks spreading invasive pests across Africa

“Irrigation could trigger changing pest distributions by allowing a host plant to grow where it would not otherwise grow and by producing conditions for the pest or pathogen to grow.” -Dan Bebber, University of Exeter

by Ines Nastali

Speed read

  • Africa’s warm and wet future climate will support foreign crop pests
  • Irrigation will also increase habitat for insects such as tomato leaf miners
  • This moth destroyed thousands of hectares of fruit in Sudan

The use of irrigation across Sub-Saharan Africa creates conditions that attract devastating foreign plant pests, such as the tomato leaf miner, a Kenyan study has found.

East Africa is at particular risk of infestations from the moth, as temperatures and seasonal rainfall in the region increase due to climate change, the researchers warn. They discovered that the increasingly frequent watering of fields turns more areas into suitable habitats for the destructive insect.

As well as tomatoes, the tomato leaf miner attacks crops such as potatoes, peppers, eggplants (brinjal) and tobacco. Although native to South America, the pest reached Europe in 2006 and has since spread across the Middle East into Africa.

Read the full article: SciDevNet

Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

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