Implementing a sustainable pest management program to combat fruit flies

September 12, 2019
green mangoes in a mango tree
Trafalgar Lio

Mangoes are an important source of nutrition and employment in sub-Saharan Africa. However,  insect infestations, especially of fruit flies (native and invasive), hamper mango productivity in the region. Researchers have developed and validated an integrated pest management package for fruit flies, and this project will apply the interventions in southern Africa.

The challenge

High-value horticultural crops such as mango are key drivers of economic development in sub-Saharan Africa. Evidence shows that farmers who produce horticultural crops, especially fruit crops, can earn higher incomes from their farm than those that grow staple crops. The fruit crop sector is more labour intensive than other agricultural sectors, so it also provides more employment opportunities for smallholders both on and off the farm, especially for women.

Fruit fly infestations of mangoes reduce the quality and quantity of the fruit. They can also cause indirect damage to the economy by curtailing export opportunities to lucrative global markets and reducing foreign exchange earnings due to quarantine restrictions. Synthetic insecticides are used to manage the pests, but they are subject to increasing resistance and they are unsustainable because of their risks to human health and the environment.

The research

Researchers will adapt and promote the wide-scale adoption of integrated pest management interventions in Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. A series of interventions will be tested and assessed for their relevance to specific locations. These include baiting techniques, male annihilation, bio-pesticide application, orchard sanitation, and the use of augmentoria (fine mesh structures that trap fruit fly larvae on infested fruit).  

Innovative research will also explore the use of semiochemicals (pheromones and other chemicals that can be used to manipulate behaviour); tri-trophic interactions (interactions between plants, herbivores, and their predators); mass-rearing of introduced parasitoids (insects whose larvae live as parasites that eventually kill their hosts); and parasitoid modelling. The use of parasitoids will be refined through field releases and the post-release evaluation and assessment of their ability to suppress invasive fruit flies.

With a specific focus on women and youth, the project team will also assess the socioeconomic effects of integrated pest management options and enhance the capacity of individuals and institutions to use the technologies. Reaching up to 4,000 mango growers, including resource-poor men and women farmers, the project will improve food and nutrition security, provide income generation opportunities, and improve the livelihoods of horticultural farmers.

Expected outcomes

• Adoption of one or more integrated pest management technologies by 500,000 mango farmers;

• Improve access to lucrative international export markets for fresh fruits;

• Inform and train stakeholders and students on integrated pest management technologies;

• Reduce the use of synthetic chemical insecticides; and

• Establish a regional network for the implementation of pest management technologies.

Learn more about this research.