Picture of Hans R. Herren

Hans R. Herren

In the 1980s, the Biological Control Center for Africa was set up by IITA in Cotonou. Beforehand, in the late 1970s, resistance breeding was IITA’s most frequently used method for combatting diseases and pests. Biological control research was started to combat the cassava mealybug. Hans R. Herren, entomologist, and Peter Neuenschwander, insect ecologist, worked as leaders of the project. Their team was able to identify the cassava mealybug as a newly introduced pest in Africa. They were also able to locate the same species in its area of

Hans R. Herren, entomologist, and Peter Neuenschwander, insect ecologist, worked as leaders of the project. Their team was able to identify the cassava mealybug as a newly introduced pest in Africa. They were also able to locate the same species in its area of origin in South America.

Picture of Peter Neuenschwander

Peter Neuenschwander

To combat the cassava mealybug, the team looked at the parasitoid, Apoanagyrus lopezi, its natural enemy. They first reared cassava mealybugs and the A. lopezi in IITA’s laboratory and developed a simulation model showing plant/pest/predator-parasite interactions. The introduction of  A. lopezi successfully dispersed and controlled the cassava mealybug wherever it was released.

The widespread control of the cassava mealybug was the first achievement among many of the Biological Control Center for Africa. The project yielded economic returns of 200:1, with minimum benefits of US$ 2.2 billion from a total expenditure of US$ 14.8 million. The 1990 CGIAR King Baudouin Award was given to the IITA and CIAT teams for Africa-wide cassava mealybug control. This was followed by the 1995 World Food Prize and other international awards to Herren.

Sources:

Rodomiro Ortiz. 2017. IITA: Transforming Africa’s Agriculture and Nourishing Rural Development. 110 pages.

Hans R. Herren, Twitter, https://twitter.com/greyherren

Neuenschwander, Peter, IITA, http://www.iita.org/iita-staff/neuenschwander-peter/