Neem-based bio-pesticides for eco-friendly management of fall armyworm, Spodoptera frugiperda (J. E. Smith) (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae), in Ethiopia

Maize, Zea mays L. (Poaceae), is one of the most important grains consumed by mankind in Africa and Ethiopia in particular. In Ethiopia it stands first in total production (8.4 Million tons) and productivity (3.9t/ha) (CSA, 2017). Currently, about 11 million households (HH) (66% of the total rural HH) grow maize on over 2.1 million hectare and 75% of all maize produced is consumed by each HH fulfilling 22% of the daily calorie needs.

Maize production is constrained by various pests. The recently introduced alien invasive fall armyworm (FAW), Spodoptera frugiperda (J. E. Smith) (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae), has become a major pest in Ethiopia. Since its first introduction to Ethiopia in 2017, FAW has spread to all maize growing areas (450 districts) across the country and infestations have been severe. Estimated damage of up to 100% of maize and other crops has been reported by smallholder farmers due to FAW.  Out of the 2.1 million ha planted in 2017, more than 650,000 ha (22.23%) were infested by FAW and about 2 million farm families were affected. Without proper pest management, the estimated impact of FAW on country-wide maize yield lies between 1.23 and 3.1 million tons per year of total expected production. The monetary losses lie between US$ 292.6 and US$728.3 million per year of total expected value of US$ 1,580.2 million per year.

As FAW is a new pest in Ethiopia, there are limited alternative management options which has forced the government to provide pesticides to farmers, often as the main emergency response. Currently, FAW control in Ethiopia depends on the use of chemical insecticides that may lead to resistant population, environmental contamination, public health problems and incurs high production costs. Consequently, several alternative methods have been studied to replace use of synthetic insecticides among which botanicals occupy an important position.

Neem oil obtained from the neem tree, Azadirachta indica A. Juss. (Meliaceae) is one of the botanical insecticides which is least toxic to mammals and beneficial organisms. Neem is a fast-growing small-to-medium sized evergreen tree, with wide and spreading branches. It can tolerate high temperatures as well as poor or degraded soil. Neem oil contains at least 100 biologically active compounds. Among them, the major constituents are triterpenes known as limonoids, the most important being azadirachtin, which appears to cause 90% of the effect on most pests. Other components present include meliantriol, nimbin, nimbidin, nimbinin, nimbolides, fatty acids (oleic, stearic, and palmitic), and salannin (Nicoletti et al., 2012). Due to these properties of neem, bio-pesticide technologies based on the plant are widely used in eco-friendly and sustainable crop production systems.

Neem oil has anti-feeding effect (Tavares et al., 2010); early death of larvae and nymphs due to inhibition of development and ecdysis defects (Formentini et al., 2016); decreased food intake, reduced pupal development (Li et al., 2003).

Hence, there is an urgent need for generating reliable information on its production, extraction, efficacy and commercialization of neem based bio-pesticide technologies for management of FAW in Ethiopia.

Goal: To contribute to food security through enhanced production and productivity of Maize in Ethiopia using sustainable and eco-friendly FAW management

General objective:To develop and promote the use of Neem based technologies for Management of the FAW in Ethiopia

Specific objectives:

  • To estimate the production potential and evaluate the quality of Neem seeds from selected ecotypes
  • To evaluate the efficacy of various Neem seed extracts under Laboratory and field conditions and to establish the dose-response relationship of Neem extracts against the FAW
  • To evaluate the  persistence, time and frequency of application, and efficacy enhancement methods of  Neem oil 
  • To evaluate the efficiency of extraction methods and machines
  • To enhance the dissemination and communication of Neem based bio-pesticide technologies 
  • To coordinate the research and development efforts on Neem based
  • To establish entrepreneurship on Neem based bio-pesticide technologies technologies

Birhanu Amare, Ethiopia

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