Pest attacks set to rise due to climate change

pest attacks are bound to increase as climate change adversely affects agriculture, researchers at the International Centre for Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) in Nairobi, are warning.
Working under the Climate Change Impacts on Ecology Services and Food Security in East Africa (CHIESA) project, the researchers note that a number of highly damaging pests are expected to wreak more havoc in the coming years as temperatures rise.
The researchers focused on three areas in eastern Africa — Taita Hills in Kenya, Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and Jimma Highlands in Ethiopia. Specifically, they set out to understand how current and projected climate changes will affect key pests and diseases as well as beneficial insects such as bees on important crops such as maize, avocado and coffee in the three regions.
Among the pests investigated are maize stem borers (Busseola fusca and Chilo partellus), fruit flies (Bactrocera dorsalis) and thrips, Heliothrips haemorhoidalis, in relation to the avocado.
Research was also conducted on the Diamond Black Moth that affects vegetables, notably the cabbage family. The coffee pests studied, include the variegated coffee bug, Antestiopsis thunbergii, and the coffee white stemborer, Monochamus leuconotus.
The researchers established that due to the rising temperatures, higher altitude areas will become more suitable for the pests, and as a result the damage on crops will increase significantly. However, the studies showed that although the rising temperature is a major factor, other climatic elements, responses of natural enemies to climate change, soil status and human activity, for instance environmental degradation, are also playing a role.
A wide range of the recommendations were made to cushion farmers on the impending effects of climate change. Already, suitable natural enemies for the control of the stemborers have been identified and are being studied for possible release in the higher altitude areas.
Another pest, Diamond Black Moth, can effectively be biologically controlled by cotesia vestalis, a wasp that is already active in the lower altitudes. And to sustain the pollination efficiency of the honey bee, Apis mellifera, the researchers propose conservation of flowering plants and maintaining of beehives in avocado orchards.
To reduce coffee pests and diseases in present and future climatic conditions, the researchers recommend prevention of deforestation and promotion of tree planting in coffee farms.
The Coffee Research Foundation (CRF) has prepared a circular for farmers on how to cope with climate change at farm level. Shading the coffee farm by planting selected tree species will reduce temperatures by 4 degrees Celcius, according to researchers.

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