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September 23, 2009

IITA develops bio-pesticide to save African cabbage

The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) has announced the development of a bio-pesticide for the control of a moth which ravages African cabbage.

IITA, based in Nigeria's southwest city of Ibadan, said in a statement that the Beauveria bassiana, developed by the scientists at the institute has recorded a huge success in the control of the pest.

``Resource-poor farmers said the bio-control method has proved effective in controlling insect pest that has devastated both smallholder and large scale cabbage farms in Africa," it said.

According to it, cabbages are among the most important vegetables in Africa in general and Benin Republic in particular, especially for lower income farmers.

``The importance of this vegetable is probably greater as it acts as a stream of income among farmers most affected by poverty, including small farmers, youth, and most especially, women who paradoxically play an important role in agricultural production," it said.

Eaten daily, either raw in salads, steamed, boiled or fried, cabbages serve as important cash-generating crops.

The institute said in spite of the importance of the crop, destructions by the moth on cabbage farms had forced thousands of farmers in West Africa to abandon cabbage production for other crops.

``The situation is worsened by the high costs associated with synthetic pesticide that serves as a chemical control option," IITA said, noting that chemical control of the pest on a global scale cost about US$1billion annually, with a package of health and environmental risks, which include pollution, destruction/death of non-target organisms including useful insects and therefore the reduction of biodiversity.

``But the good news is that the biopesticide B. bassiana in an integrated pest management approach offers a solution to sustainable control of the moth. Majority of farmers who abandoned cabbage cultivation for other crops are now requesting the bio-pesticide to make a come back but the problem is the availability of the product," the institute said.


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