My thesis will be titled “Efficacy of Medicinal plant extracts in the control of maize weevils”. Several farmers especially in Africa face the problem of pest and disease attack in crop production which has significantly affected yields over the years leading to famine in some parts. Maize which is the major cereal staple food grain cultivated in Cameroon is facing serious challenges with respect to post harvest losses during storage. The most common pest causing this devastating effect being the maize weevil (Sitophiluszeamais. L: Coleoptera). Recent findings have proven the use of SYNTHETIC products (insecticides) in the safe storage of these grains. These products are constantly raising concerns such as;
- The persistence (residues) of some of these products in the stored grains
- Social acceptability of such products by indigenous farmers
- Risk of intoxication in the poor handling of these products by untrained peasant farmers
- High cost attributed to some of these synthetic products
Looking at all the aforementioned preoccupations, the big question popped into my mind: WHAT IF WE CAME UP WITH A BIOLOGICAL MEANS OF CONTROLLING THESE WEEVILS USING PLANT EXTRACTS? WHAT IF THESE EXTRACTS ARE NOT JUST RANDOM PLANTS, BUT CAREFULLY SELECTED MEDICINAL PLANTS HAVING AN ADDED ADVANTAGE TO THE USE OF THE PRODUCTS?
Now let us try to see if it solves the above listed problem
- With regards to persistence, these are biological products with short shelf life
- Looking at social acceptability, considering most of the peasant farmers in rural areas are skeptical about what they commonly call “CHEMICALS” which they belief are dangerous to their health, they will be convinced using products from natural herbs.
- Based on risk of intoxication, the extracts are of biological origin which are Non-toxic to human health but beneficial to humans in cases of residues
- These plants are found in bushes and have been used by herbalists to heal certain ailments with no knowledge on the possibilities of alternative uses such as controlling insect pests on stored grains. They could be propagated and extracts gotten on a large scale which will make the products cheaper
STEPS TO FOLLOW IN THE REALIZATION OF THIS PROJECT
- Plant samples of these medicinal plants; Echinopsgiganteus and Mondiawhitei will be collected and extracts gotten in the laboratory at the department of crop protection at the level of the Faculty of Agronomy and Agricultural Sciences.
- These extracts will be tested on unsexed adult weevils using standard scientific procedures to determine their efficacies
- With a success in the research and upon graduation, the medicinal plants will be propagated to get extracts on a large scale (with possibility of financial support) while setting up an extraction and packaging plant for these extracts
- Trainings will be organized at the level of farmers’ organizations while sensitizing farmers on the use of these products.
The key stake holders will be the research assistants at the level of the laboratory of the institution, the central and decentralized services of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and Local councils. The primary beneficiaries of this project will be the farmers while secondary beneficiaries will be the consumers of maize and its products.
I am still at the level of gathering useful data with regards to the research methodology and collection of the plant samples. The outcome of this project will be seen by an increase in the quantity of maize grains brought to the market, a reduced number of patients attended to at local hospitals due to “pesticide” intoxication and the number of farmers using these bio-products, which are all measurable.
With regards to the impact of this project, socially it will be accepted by all the farmers and consumers. It will boost the income of farmers involved in the grain production sector since postharvest losses will be reduced to significant levels. Employment will be created in the plant extraction and packaging firm (plant) as well as the propagation farm. It will also give room for more research on the use of other possible Medicinal plant extracts to control post-harvest pests.
The reasons I am passionate about this idea is that I have never been a party to the use synthetic products in the environment especially on things consumed by human beings. This gave birth to the idea of the use of alternative means especially from biological sources. Medicinal plants being an extra advantage gave me the zeal to research on. I will be fostered with advanced knowledge in biological control, environmental and health protection and the society will be safer from residues of synthetic products use on crops.
Nfor Remy Kengong, Cameroon