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Amelie Dupuy-Cailloux

In Kalele (DRC) there is a plague of mealybugs…

 

In addition to agricultural land grabbing by some self-proclaimed diamond smugglers, our 2000m² field in Kalelé, Democratic Republic of Congo, is also suffering from the devastation caused by Pseudococcus viburni, or mealybugs.

The mealybug was first discovered on the African continent in 1973 in the Republic of the Congo, as well as the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire). This pest has caused considerable destruction to African plantations. Originating from tropical areas of South America (Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay), the insect has spread rapidly to 25 different African nations, especially throughout areas where cassava is grown.

The mealybug reproduces very quickly because females can lay up to 500 eggs, whose unfertilized eggs in turn produce only females. This type of parthenogenesis among aphids is called thelytoky (derived from the Greek words thēlys ‘female’ and tokos ‘birth’).

Mealybugs are a biting-and-sucking insect that can be found on practically all parts of a plant. They mainly feed on the sap and cause damage to stems and leaves. The attack of the leaves by the insects reduces the plants’ photosynthetic ability, which in turn harms the plant even more. Under natural conditions, a multiplication of mealybugs can be observed especially during the long dry season in Central Africa. Sudden changes in climate conditions such as rainfall or prolonged periods of sunshine encourages their expansion further.

On our partner’s 2000m² field in the Democratic Republic of the Congo this plague has resulted in the fact that the efforts of our partners in Kalele to bring agrodiversity closer to the local population has repeatedly been hampered by the infestation of their crops.  While biological control is possible it takes time and is not necessarily appreciated by the local agriculture inspectorate (Tshikapa Principal Inspectorate of Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock). In the month of May the field already faced the threat of chemical insecticides…

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