Agricultural researchers from the Thai Department of Agriculture will release around a quarter of a million parasitic wasps in the northeastern part of the country tomorrow (July 17), as a form of biological control. The aim is for the Anagyrus lopezi wasp to hunt down and kill mealybugs. You can see the full press release here shortly.
We reported on the devastating cassava mealybug (Phenacoccus manihoti) outbreaks sweeping across Thailand here on the CIAT blog in January. At the time CIAT scientists in SE Asia raised the alarm and issued emergency guidelines to try and help contain the spread, while long term eco-efficient solutions were sought.
After several months of rearing and research, the Thai DoA is expected to officially start the release of the wasps in the northeastern province of Khon Kaen, with further releases in different sites expected to follow soon after. The wasps pose no threat to humans, animals, or other insects – and will help farmers to control mealybugs without the need for pesticides.
“Cassava production in Southeast Asia has enjoyed an extended honeymoon, relatively free of major pest and disease outbreaks,” continued Bellotti. “But now it’s over.”
Bellotti was part a team of scientists from CIAT and CGIAR sister center the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) that originally collected A. lopezi from the wild in Brazil in the 1980s. The wasp was quickly proven to be an extremely effective form of biological control, with CIAT, IITA and other partner organizations successfully deploying it to curb mealybug outbreaks in sub-Saharan Africa and helping to avert a food security crisis.
CIAT’s director general Ruben Echeverría congratulated the international effort to tackle the outbreak. “Thailand’s rapid response to stop the cassava mealybug plague shows international agricultural research at its best,” he said.