Sustainable management of vegetable pests in Malawi using entomopathogenic fungal-based biopesticides

Crop damage due to insect pests is estimated be over 60 billion United States dollars annually. Entomopathogenic fungi are lethal pathogens of insect pests. They are occur naturally in soils and some occur as plant endophytes. Recent research indicates that entomopathogenic fungi also enhance plant growth, confer protection against plant pathogens and enhance plant adaptation to abiotic stresses such as drought. Unlike synthetic chemical pesticides, entomopathogenic fungi are not harmful to beneficial organisms such as pollinators, are safe to humans and the environment, can be integrated with other pest management measures, and can be mass produced at low cost. A number of entomopathogenic fungi are commercially available with both a broad and specific host range.

The use of entomopathogenic fungi as biological control agents is widely practiced in developed parts of the world especially the European Union, United States, Brazil and South Africa. However, in developing countries, such as Malawi, where there is high dependency on and higher risk of environmental pollution from synthetic pesticides use, the use of entomopathogenic fungi remains an untapped potential area.  Identification of local species of entomopathogenic fungi, evaluating their efficacy against pests of tomato, onion and cabbage, and formulation of biopesticides based on the most effective entomopathogenic fungal species will contribute to sustainable crop protection in the horticultural sector in Malawi. 

I started working on entomopathogenic fungi in 2016. For my postgraduate research thesis, I identified entomopathogens that occur in soils in sugarcane cropping systems in southern Malawi. I found two species namely Beauveria bassiana and Metarhizium anisopliae. These species are known to occur worldwide and kill a wide range of insect pests. However, I didn’t have enough time to conduct experiments evaluating the impact of these two entomopathogenic fungi against major crop pests in different environments and develop formulations.

Example of entomopathogenic fungi (A) Beauveria bassiana (b) Metarhizium anisopliae

In order to achieve sustainable tomato and cabbage production in Malawi, I will take the following steps:

  1. During the first year, the focus will be on collection and identification of species of entomopathogenic fungi from soil, plants and insects in tomato, onion and cabbage cropping systems and
  2. Evaluating the efficacy of the identified entomopathogenic fungi at both lab and farm level with the aim of establishing target pests and application rates.
  3. In the following years, I will focus on optimizing the formulations so that the entomopathogenic fungi remains viable for longer periods and that biopesticide products based on entomopathogenic fungi are officially approved and made available on the Malawi markets.
  4. Training of farmers on how to collect and mass produce the entomopathogenic fungi at household level used concepts I will adopt from oyster mushroom production

The main target beneficiaries of my project are farmers. Farmers and extension workers will be able to use the formulations of identified and evaluated entomopathogenic fungi for managing pests in their crops. The private sector and farmer research networks or field schools will be key stakeholders in the development of entomopathogenic fungal-based biopesticide formulation. The government through the agricultural technology clearing committee is an important stakeholder for getting approval of biopesticide to be formulated.

The potential outcomes from this project will be:

  1. Reduction in the amount of pesticides used by the target farmers on the target crops in different environments.
  2. Two or three virulent species of entomopathogenic fungi identified and target pests in tomato, onion and cabbage crops determined.
  3. Guideline for mass production and use of entomopathogenic fungal-based biopesticide(s) for management of pests in tomato, onion and cabbage crop developed.
  4. At least one entomopathogenic fungal-based biopesticide successfully formulated
  5. At least one entomopathogenic fungal-based product marketed approved and marketed as a biopesticide.

My project has a positive social impact. Farmers will acquire skills in identification and formulation of non-chemical pest control methods. Farmers can use the knowledge and training they will acquire from the project to start small-scale biopesticide production at community level.

Why am I passionate about the innovation or idea I am proposing

Malawi’s population is predominantly rural-based and the economy is highly dependent on agriculture. However, pest proliferation is a major limiting factor in improving the household food security. Growing up and having worked in the agricultural sector since 2010, I have noted that farmers in Malawi depend very much on chemical pesticides and there are few environmentally friendly alternatives to chemical pesticides approved for use in Malawi. Communities participating in my projects will have reduced exposure to harmful chemical pesticides.

Trust Kasambala, Malawi

46 comments

  1. Insect pasts are really a serious problem in vegetable fields. There are many health concerns residual effect of synthetic pesticides in vegetables. This research is a right direction towards safe and low cost vegetable production.

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  2. This work if implemented would translate into sustainable vegetable production through reduction in synthetic pesticide use

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  3. This is a good direction that Malawi needs, amidst issues of pest and diseases for major food (maize) and cash crops (cotton, sugarcane and vegetables). As an agro-based economy, managing pesticide use should promote the commercialisation of agriculture even among smallholder farmers. Way to go Trust

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  4. We need practical solutions to address the food security challenge in Africa and Malawi in particular. You present a compelling case to achieve food security by reducing food loss!

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    1. Safety issues remain a very big concern in Malawi especially among vegetable growers. The consumers are at risk of ingesting alot of field chemical due to limited knowledge by farmers.on observing th3 allowable period to harveat andnor use use veggies after using them. This project will bring in a solution to the Malawi nation at large. Very good idea.

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  5. The use of entomopagenic fungal is safe to both plants and humans as it does not involve the use of chemicals which are harmful,hence reducing risk to some diseases such as cancer in humans

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  6. This is the way to go Trust. You have chosen right crops which are hard to produce during rainy season due to high prolificancy of pests. I understsnd one of the the reasons why farmers prefer synthetic pesticides to other type of pestcides is that they get the results immidietely, so from your experience how long does the biopestcide takes to show the results in the field ?

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  7. I have just fallen in love with this concept. These pesticides are killing us . Trust , this is ideal for our local farmers!!!

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  8. Wow! This is innovative and way to go. Pests are being rampant and destroying vegetables severely affecting accessibility to better nutrition. This research if succeed will revolutionalize how smallholder farmers will produce vegetables for home consumption and sale!

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  9. This looks a very good research agenda. I think the background experience Trust has will be very useful in achieving the expected outcomes

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  10. This is the right path in as far as good agricultural practice is concerned. This research will help to come up with solutions that will be of sustainable crop protection hence high quality and quantity yield. In addition to that, it will protect the lives of farmers as there should be reduced exposure to dangerous chemicals. Good work Trust

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  11. This is a great move in agriculture sector more especially vegetable production,here in Malawi we have all necessary low materials(land) but we are lucking technical expertise like you trust,if this be implemented i see Malawi of very good healthy and economically empowered.all the best,we are looking forward

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  12. this really interesting and if done properly Malwi as a country will benefit from your research and farmers woll start using biopesticides. we have used enough chemicals of which we are never sure of the residual effect, this is way to go. all the best

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  13. Veggies really receive enormous amounts of pesticides more than other crops this puts human health at a risk, the environmental sustainability is also a serious concern, such innovations will solve these problems currently hitting us as well as meeting smallholder farmers’ halfway in their production costs. This is sustainable. Keep the zeal burning.

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  14. This is a very important research project idea whose findings, upon implementation, will surely help improve tomato and cabbage production and other vegetables in Malawi especially now that we are facing problems controlling insect pests such as the fall army worm that are infesting and damaging most vegetables grown in the country. Indeed most farmers are resorting to the use of chemical pesticides which are detrimental to the environment. Other countries will benefit too. Use of the proposed environmentally friendly bio-pesticides is the way to go! Best wishes Trust

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  15. This is a fantastic idea and a relief to local farmers. The fact that this project will also impart knowledge and training that will enable them start small-scale biopesticide production at community level, makes it to be even more superb. I can’t wait to see this project implemented. Big up

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  16. I like the concept Trust.change begin with one person and spread to everyone. We want natural methods of pests control like those. I like vegetable farming and when i see those pests in my garden,i really dont know how to control nd eradicate them using natural methods for i am tired of eating chemicals. As such i leave the pests to eat half of my crop while i harvest half though of low quality. I hope the product will solve my problem and also of fellow small holder farmers at large.keep up with the good work Trust

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  17. This is an outstanding project Trust! We surely need to implement this! The importance of using non chemical pesticides in this Era, can not be overemphasised! This is the way to go! Job well done!

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  18. Integrated Pest Management is the most promising solution to the pest problems facing rural farmers in Malawi.
    Good work Trust!

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  19. Entomopathogenic fungi are the best solution to reduce insect pests. Beauveria bassiana and Metarhizium anisopliae can also act as endophytic fungi in plant tissues. The studies conducted by Trust are very important to the control of agricultural pests in Malawi. Congratulations.

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