Rwanda looks to nematode worms for sustainable pest controls

Introduction of nematode worms could provide Rwandan farmers with sustainable mechanisms in soil pest controls; thus increasing productivity.

Participants to the inception workshop meant to launch a project using nematodes for soil pest control (Photo: Eric Didier Karinganire)

Participants to the inception workshop meant to launch a project using nematodes for soil pest control (Photo: Eric Didier Karinganire)

Nematodes are biological insecticides that are used in soil pest controls, and they are not harmful to environment.

According to Daphrose Gahakwa, the Director General of Research extension at Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB), Rwandans will benefit a lot from the new practice once the project gets operational.

“It’s a very important project,” Gahakwa has noted. “If it works, it will increase yields while protecting our environment.”

The RAB Deputy Director General was speaking last week during an inception workshop on soil insect pest project in Rwanda. The workshop was meant to discuss on work plan for the project implementation and which crops and pests to start with.

The project team will be composed of a London-based international Centre for Agricultural Bio-services International (CABI), the Institute of Plant Protection of Chinese Academy of Agriculture Sciences, RAB and the Guangdong Entomological Institute.

Through collaboration with partners from UK, China and Rwanda, innovative technologies will be researched with a particular focus on making beneficial nematodes accessible to Rwandan farmers through introduction of locally adapted mass production technology.

This is in line with developing techniques and improving local skills to provide alternatives to chemical control – such as mass application of biocontrol agents.

The project comes at a time that Rwandan farmers have been facing pest diseases that leave them counting enormous losses, noted the RAB Deputy Director General. Researches indicate that a factor which has significant impact on productivity is soil pests, whose effects filter through the whole value chain.

“I think this project comes at the right time,” Gahakwa pointed out. “The collaboration that we have with CABI will help us to find solutions to our challenges.”

Insect-parasitic nematodes help farmers by providing ‘biological control’ of soil-dwelling insect pests. These nematodes occur naturally in the soil, or they can be purchased and introduced. They are relatively easy to mass produce and are available from several commercial labs as ‘biological insecticides.’ These nematodes can infect many kinds of insects, but they don’t infect birds or mammals.

How they kill insects?

These nematodes carry bacteria in their bodies that are toxic to insects. That’s why they are called ‘entomopathogenic’ nematodes. Entompathogenic is the scientific term for ‘insect-killing’. The nematodes and bacteria are always found together because they depend on each other. The bacteria need the nematodes to deliver them into the insects, and the nematodes need the bacteria for food and to create conditions in the insect that allow it to reproduce. The bacteria are safe to animals and have only been found in association with these nematodes and infected insects, never living freely in soil.

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