Funding to promote use of plants in Africa for pest control

Kew scientists are involved in two recently funded projects that will optimise the use of plants as natural pesticides in Africa.

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01 Oct 2010

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Phil Stevenson conducting pesticidal plants trials in Africa

Trials involving African farmers help to demonstrate application protocols for pesticidal plants and also promote their use (Image: S. Nyirenda).

Many synthetic pesticides that are widely available in Africa are expensive, environmentally harmful and persistent, and toxic to users and consumers. Pesticidal plants provide the poorest farmers in Africa with an effective low-cost alternative that is both environmentally benign and less toxic.

Two recently funded projects, led by Phil Stevenson, are continuing Kew’s successful collaboration with the Natural Resources Institute (University of Greenwich) to optimise the use of pesticidal plants in Africa.
 

Tephrosia vogelii – a species popular among poor farmers for soil improvement and pest control in Southern Africa
Tephrosia vogelii – a species popular among poor farmers for soil improvement and pest control in Southern Africa (Image: Phil Stevenson)

Protecting legume crops with legumes

The first project is funded by the McKnight foundation and is based in Malawi and Tanzania. The project is working  with the Departments of Agricultural Research in these countries and the International Centre of Tropical Agriculture (CIAT).

The specific aim of the project is to fully understand the activity of Neorautanenia mitis and species of Tephrosia (both members of the legume family) against pests of stored and field grown legume crops – particularly cowpeas (Vigna unguiculata) and dry beans (Phaseolus vulgaris).

The information gained from this research will be used to develop improved and safer use of these pesticidal plants, and so increase harvests and reduce storage losses for poor farmers in Africa.

ADAPPT will help build region-wide multidisciplinary teams of African scientists to promote the use of pesticidal plants (Image: Phil Stevenson)
ADAPPT will help build region-wide multidisciplinary teams of African scientists to promote the use of pesticidal plants (image: Phil Stevenson).

Networks on pesticidal plants

The second project is an Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Science and Technology Programme project – the African Dry-land Alliance for Pesticidal Plant Technologies  (ADAPPT) – that will build a network of scientists, NGOs and agricultural technologists across Ghana, Kenya, Namibia, Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Zambia.

The overall objective is to help develop regional multidisciplinary teams with the knowledge and skills to improve research, development and promotion of pesticidal plants as a key pest management strategy that is environmentally benign and that secures food and reduces poverty without reliance on synthetic pesticides. The initiative will include a strong capacity building element but will also assist the development of policies related to the regulation of indigenous knowledge, biodiversity conservation, health and safety directives and commercialisation of pesticidal plants and natural products. The outcome will be a stronger basic research and technology platform across Africa that is effective, robust and has international impact.

Preparing Securidaca longepedunculata root bark for mixing with Maize grain (Image: Phil Stevenson)
Preparing Securidaca longepedunculata root bark for mixing with Maize grain (Image: Phil Stevenson).

SAPP success with Securidaca

A forerunner EU project funded through the Southern African Development Community  (SADC) , the Southern African Pesticidal Plants project  (SAPP) , has recently ended. One result from the project was the discovery of new saponins in roots of Securidaca longepedunculata (Polygalaceae) with deterrent and toxic properties to coleopteran storage pests.

The findings, reported in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, help to explain the biological activity of the root bark of this species against stored product pests of maize and beans. In the paper the researchers discuss ways that this information could be used to improve the use of Securidaca as a pesticidal plant by farmers in Africa.

 

Item from Dr Phil Stevenson (Natural Product Chemist, RBG Kew/NRI)

Originally published in Kew Scientist, issue 37


Article references: Stevenson, P.C. Veitch, N.C., Jayasekera, T.K., Belmain, S.R., (2009). Bisdesmosidic saponins from Securidaca longepedunculata (Polygalaceae) with deterrent and toxic properties to Coleopteran storage pests. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 57: 8860–8867.


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