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Cycle 8 (2019 Deadline)

Entomopathogenic nematodes and plant resistance for the control of sweet potato weevils (Cylas spp.) in Benin and in South Africa

PI: Hugues Kossi Baimey (, University of Parakou
U.S. Partner: David Shapiro-Ilan, United States Department of Agriculture/ Agricultural Researchc Service, Southeast Fruit and Tree Nut Research Lab
Project Dates: March 1, 2020 - February 28, 2021

Project Overview:
Sweet potato (SP, Ipomoea batatas) is one of the most widely cultivated root and tuber crops worldwide, but its production and storage are badly affected by SP weevils, Cylas spp., the most damaging pests of SP worldwide. This can leads to yield losses as high as 100%, especially in stores during dry seasons. Also, the terpenes produced by the pest while feeding greatly reduce the quality of affected tubers. To control the pests, most African SP farmers resort to expensive synthetic chemical insecticides with significant environmental and health risks. This PEER project will study the use of entomopathogenic nematodes (EPNs) of the families Heterorhabditidae and Steinernematidae and plant resistance as efficient, cost-effective, fast, and environmentally-safe pest control methods. It will assess the severity of damage caused by Cylas spp. to SP in Benin and South Africa. Researchers will screen in laboratory EPN isolates provided by a South African partner lab to assess their efficacy to control SP weevils, an evaluation that has already been completed for samples from Benin sources. The two best EPN isolates identified in Benin and South Africa through such screening will be stabilized through the development of inbred lines to prevent deterioration over time. The U.S. partner Dr. Shapiro-Ilan, who invented the technique, will provide training to the African partners. The inbred lines will then be tested for their efficacy in controlling SP weevils under field and greenhouse conditions. After receiving the training, researchers, students, and experts from public and private development services will subsequently transfer them to SP farmers by means of farmer field schools (FFS), participatory field research (PFR), and feed-back workshops (FBW). Women will be key stakeholders in the project, as they are frequently involved in SP production, storage, processing, and commercialization in Africa. The new technologies will be later applied on other crops, pests and in other countries, helping to ensure project sustainability.

The Development Leaders NGO in Benin and the Small Grain Institute of the Agricultural Research Council in South Africa are willing to produce the nematodes for farmers using the technique to be studied in this project. In this way, products will be made available to SP farmers at a low price, covering production costs for application in small-scales on-site. The PEER team expects that the production of EPNs in Benin and in SA will prove feasible and the environmentally safe technique will be adopted by the local SP farmers, thus increasing their profitability and improving their livelihoods. The research team will monitor and evaluate these processes through socioeconomic studies. As noted above, gender dynamics and marginal groups will be a priority in this project. Several women will actively participate in the development activities, and female laboratory assistants and students from marginal groups will be prioritized during recruitments.

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