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Scientists discuss improved biopesticides for locust control in West Africa

Two Virginia Tech scientists contributed by invitation to an international scientific meeting called by Abdoulaye Wade, president of Senegal, to identify strategies for the control of the ongoing locust outbreak in West Africa. Last year, locusts stripped fields of crops and trees of foliage across several countries, causing severe income and food supply loss.

Larry Vaughan, associate program director of the USAID-funded Integrated Pest Management Collaborative Research Support Program (IPM CRSP) and research associate in the Office of International Research, Education, and Development (OIRED), and Foster Agblevor, associate professor of biological systems engineering, traveled to Senegal to speak about their biopesticide research at the "International Scientific Seminar on Desert Locusts" held in Dakar in January.

Biopesticides are types of pesticides derived from natural materials such as microbes, principally viruses, bacteria, and fungi. "The biopesticide that is registered for use in West Africa derives from a fungus that is a specific pathogen of locusts and grasshoppers. It specifically targets those insects and does not affect non-target organisms," Vaughan said.

"The persistence of base biopesticides is low in the environment because of degradation from sunlight," Agblevor said. "We have developed coating technologies to improve on the environmental persistence of the biopesticide, specifically a lignin coating for the spores, which increases their resistance to ultraviolet radiation." Research at Virginia Tech demonstrated UV resistance 15 times greater for coated spores as compared to non-coated spores. "This technology is applicable to many other biopesticides and should make them more effective as well,." Agblevor said

Local officials are calling the infestation in West Africa the worst in 18 years. The pests invaded the region last summer, affecting millions of acres of farmland. The locusts are in recession now because t
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Source:Virginia Tech


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