Kenia: Scientists make breakthrough in potato pest eradication
Researchers have made a breakthrough in the fight against the destructive potato cyst nematodes (PCN).
Lucy Mwaniki collects potatoes in her farm in Nyandarua in this past photo. Researchers are considering use of naturally occurring chemicals in potato crop roots to induce ‘suicidal hatching’ of potato cyst nematodes (PCN) to eradicate the pest . PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP
They are considering use of naturally occurring chemicals in crop roots to induce ‘suicidal hatching’ of PCN to eradicate the pest that is particularly damaging to potatoes.
The tiny microscopic worms – with some soil-dwelling species infecting and adversely affecting most, if not all, cultivated crops – are invasive pests that were first reported in Kenya in 2015.
Studies by the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (Icipe) and partners show the pest causes up to 80 per cent yield loss in potatoes.
“Management of PCN is particularly challenging due to the pest’s ability to survive in the soil as tiny protective cysts. These cysts can contain up to 600 eggs. They are able to remain dormant in the absence of a host plant for up to 20 years,” says Prof Baldwyn Torto, who heads the Behavioural and Chemical Ecology Unit at Icipe.
The researchers noted that PCN eggs only hatch in the presence of suitable host plants of the Solanaceae family, such as potato, tomato and African nightshade.