Use of botanicals for the control of plant virus diseases in the world

I understand sustainable crop protection to mean the management or control of crop pests of whatever nature (weeds, insects, and diseases) using methods which do not only control these problems for a short time, but also supports maintenance of balance in the Ecosystem. There are several methods of controlling or managing crop pests, but not all of them are sustainable. I am particularly interested in organic crop protection using botanicals and bio-pesticides. Hence, I would appreciate receiving an opportunity to do extensive research into crop protection using measures that comply with organic standards and regulations particularly in the area of managing virus diseases in crops.

Control of plant virus diseases is still a thorn to man today, as their presence are often without control and usually lead to great losses in crop growth and yield. Although research is continually ongoing, there has not been much records on the assessment of the effects of plant extracts in the control of plant viruses. There have been a report by Verma and Awasthi (1979) about root extracts of Boerhavia diffusa having antiviral properties against Tomato Leaf Curl Virus. However, more research has not been done in to improve upon this finding.

I propose to undertake research into this area for my masters degree thesis but the antibodies needed to test for the viruses selected were not available in laboratories around my institution (including the Institute of Tropical Agriculture, IITA Ibadan, Nigeria). I am passionate about studying the effects of extracts from plants such as Boerhavia diffusa and Chromolaena odorata and other plants on both the disease vectors as well as on the incidence of virus diseases in crops. I will carry out research during which many plant extracts will be screened particularly for antiviral properties. These extracts will be assessed using field and lab experiments to determine their ability to suppress or completely manage viral infections in plants

It has always been my belief that nature is a gift from God to man. I am also always in a sense of duty to protect the ecosystem by employing an ecofriendly approach to all activities and operations. For my first degree, I studied the efficacy of phytochemicals in managing insect pests of vegetables. Over the years I have come to realize that the major challenges facing organic agriculture is insect pest control and more importantly diseases. I have decided to contribute actively by participating in meaningful researches that will uncover effective yet sustainable ways of managing insect pests and ultimately virus diseases in plants.  

What motivates me to try this out?

From my studies and findings, I realized that control of insect pests has for a long been one of the major issues of concern in agriculture all over the world. Among the reasons identified for this concern is the fact that disease conditions in crop plants most often co-exist with, or is adumbrated by insect pests. A large number of diseases in plants today are heralded by insect pests which fill in as vectors for such diseases. Among the ultimate consequences of these problems is the partial and in some cases total loss of crops and yield.

Several advances have continually been made through research to control or at least manage these problems, and there has been reasonable success especially with the development of chemicals which for a long time has proven to manage these pest and consequently disease problems (with the exception of viral diseases) more than other known methods. However, man is becoming increasingly concerned by the effects post-use of these chemicals, which includes residues in food for consumption, pollution of the environment, destabilization of the natural balance of the ecosystem, growing resistance of insect pests to these chemicals and evolution of new strains of insect pests that are more phytophagous and resistant than their predecessors.  I believe there is a serious need to carry out research on eco-friendly methods that can be used to effectively manage the presence of these pests to a level below the economic threshold. This is where my motivation lies. I have also participated in training on organic standards according to EU and NOP regulations, Global GAP, and Fair Trade in an attempt to learn more about how I can undertake this study.

I live in a developing country where food security is a serious problem for the majority of the population. I believe that the findings from my research will contribute to food security through preservation of the earth’s biodiversity. There has also been serious health concerns from the consumption of food produced using conventional practices and synthetic chemicals, especially due to residues of chemicals often detected in food. Therefore, this innovation will improve the quality and safety of food in my community and society. Life expectancy will increase because the likelihood of food poisonings will be greatly reduced. These and other benefits will also extend to the world at large.

Nneji Emmanuel, Nigeria

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