Guatemala is a developing country with a high poverty rate in the Americas. I was born in the Guatemalan Highlands in a city called Quetzaltenango, this city is surrounded of rural areas not far away. Unfortunately, Guatemala’s Western Highlands have the highest rates of poverty, illiteracy and inequality in the country. 70% of people in rural areas live in poverty and has the highest rates of undernourishment, especially in children under 5 years. Guatemala has the 6th place for chronical undernourishment around the world.
Since I was a little child, I noticed that in the country there are two main crops, maize and dry beans, because all people in the country have at least one meal using these basic crops. Beans are considered the main source of vegetal protein since animal protein sometimes is not available. In the Western highlands, dry beans are cultivated in an intercropping system called “Milpa”, the Milpa system usually use maize, climbing beans and another crop (e.g. squash).
Last year when I came back after studying Plant Sciences I went to a local farm with climbing beans. Unfortunately, climbing beans are affected by several plagues and diseases, including the bean pod weevil. This little insect of 2-3 millimeters has the ability to oviposit 390 eggs during its entire life and the main damage is caused when the bean pod weevil drills the seed affecting directly the seed yield. That is why people started asking how to control the insect. Until now there is not a resistant variety of climbing bean and the only way to control this insect is by using pesticides, which represents a health risk for small shareholder farmers since they do not use any protection to apply pesticides. All this background and the challenge to reduce this problem in the rural areas of the Western highlands of my country inspired me to find a solution.
It is known that the use of an EPF (enthomopathogenic fungi) could reduce the population of the bean pod weevil by infecting the cuticule and by introducing toxins into the weevil’s body. Also, this is an eco-friendly sustainable way to control the insect without any risk for human health. Besides, there is not a systematic study in Guatemala using Beauveria basiana and Metharrhizium anisopliae to counteract the damage of the plague.
That is why this project consists in evaluating different concentrations, spraying frequencies and spraying day time of the fungus on infested plants with the plague and develop a dose easy to use according to cultural practices of the country. At the end, the goal of an spraying recommendation of the EPF could be measured by the control of the population of the plague and the adoption of the technology.
I am currently working at the Agriculture Science and Technology Institute (ICTA) in Guatemala in the dry bean breeding program and the access to the lab is open to start working with the EPF. Besides, in the Western highlands there is a research station were the pressure of the plague is critical. After increasing the fungus in the lab, trials will begin when climbing beans start flowering, damage will be measured during harvest time by January.
Furthermore, small shareholder farmers are open minded to new technologies and are willing to collaborate by doing trials in their land with the idea of having more production. This alternative will help all producers of climbing beans in the Guatemalan highlands that need more bean production for a better nutrition without compromising their health.
Carlos Raúl Maldonado Mota, Guatemala