BURUNDI – The Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) Sub-regional Office for Eastern Africa and the Ministry of the Environment, Agriculture and Livestock have efficaciously released biological control agents of the Mango Mealybug in Burundi.
The biological control agent release was done in two provinces of Burundi, in the months of April and May in two rounds, aiming to effectively control the mealybug and reduce crop damage by the invasive plant pest.
Biological pest control involves the use of living organisms to suppress pest populations. FAO used natural enemies of the mango mealybug; Gyranusoidea tebygi and Anagyrus mangicola.
Measuring less than 1 mm long, the tiny wasps feed exclusively on mango mealybugs and pose no human, animal or environmental risk.
The mealybug has been detected in several localities of Burundi, with significant infestations in Kirundo and Muyinga provinces, reports FAO.
It has affected several plants such as mango, citrus, banana, guava, several ornamentals, horticultural, and shade plants.
The sap-sucking insect feeds on the leaves, flowers, fruits and young parts of the Mango stem. In heavy infestations, blackish layers called sooty mould cover the leaves.
The heavily attacked parts of a plant stop growing, resulting in lower productivity or death. In terms of yield, the pest causes enormous damage, causing up to 90% fruit loss, and citrus fruits can be significantly affected with fruit yield losses of up to 53%.
The second release took place in Muyinga province on 06 and 07 May 2022 and in Kirundo province on 08 May 2022, courtesy of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) who brought the parasitoids from Benin.
The FAO Burundi Country Office and the Burundi National Mango Mealybug Management Task Force members coordinated the field release in both provinces.
Apart from Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda have also fallen victims of the mango mealybugs. FAO has been working closely with IITA and the governments of Rwanda and Uganda to control this pest since its emergence in 2019.
Burundi is leading the regional effort by being the first country in the region to adopt this agroecological approach to restore the balance of nature by introducing the natural enemies of the mango mealybug.
Orlando Sosa, FAO Agriculture Officer, highlighted the importance of using effective pest control methods on the Mango mealybug that poses the risk of spreading to other neighboring countries in the East African region.
“The use of biological control agents has been quite successful in Western Africa, where the pest was reported in 11 countries, causing considerable crop damage. This is why we have made a technology transfer from West Africa to East Africa to employ the most effective pest management technique,” he said.
Sosa informed that FAO will continue backing affected countries through its technical cooperation project that focuses on enhancing the preparedness and response capacity of three Eastern African countries to the mango mealybug.