A traditional pest control method used in China could also help
African farmers keep about 60 percent more of their high value
crops, according to a recently released research by the Africa Rice
Center in Benin.
Mangoes and other high value crops could be rescued from fruit
flies, the research shows.
Dr Paul Van Mele and his colleagues reported in the US-based
Journal of Economic Entomology that weaver ants could be the
key. They said the ants could be used for mango pest control in
Africa because the ants, once placed on mango trees, patrol the
trees throughout the year and prey on fruit flies and their
Fruit flies are responsible for destroying about 40 percent of
Africa's annual mango production of about 2 million metric tons.
Mangoes are one of Africa's most important sources of Vitamin A and
a potential export.
The African researchers are the first to show that Oecophylla
longinoda, an African weaver ant, protects mangoes against all of
the fruit flies available in the fruit fly complex - at least five
different species in West Africa, including the invasive species
from Asia, Bactrocera invadens.
"The latter was discovered on the African continent only since
2003 in East Africa and 2004 in West Africa," Dr Van Mele says.
The studies also showed that the application of weaver ants
could completely reduce the need for pesticides - a major expense
for African farmers - and significantly improve fruit quality.
Centuries ago, weaver ants were documented as a powerful weapon
guarding citrus fruits against insect damage in South China. While
the weaver ants exist in abundance in Africa, their use is still at
the experimental stage in many countries.
Dr Van Mele first discovered the weaver ant's power around 1970
in Vietnam, where predatory ants are also under research and are
considered a viable method to help sustain agricultural
More research will be needed to test the effectiveness of weaver
ants in controlling major pests in multiple contexts, crops and
agro-ecosystems across Africa, and farmer awareness programs should
be developed to assist the spread of the technology, he says.
"Share of information is also important between countries," Dr
Van Mele adds, referring particularly to African countries and
China, as the latter has rich experience and time-honored history
in agricultural science.
(China Daily July 30, 2007)