Over a decade ago, when reports arrived that up to 80% of the mango crop in Kenya, Ethiopia and Tanzania had been destroyed by invasive fruit flies, the icipe team set about developing environmentally friendly methods for pest control with financial support from Biovision. The destructive fruit fly rapidly became a critical problem, as the cultivation of mangoes funds the livelihood of many small farmers.
Knowing the origins and DNA of the pest is vital
Dr. Fathyia M. Khamis started her career at the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology icipe in 2011, where she researched into the origins of the fruit fly. “Knowing the origins of the pest and how it spreads gives scientists a key advantage. Knowing about the pest’s home environment and circumstances can help in finding a natural enemy to control it”, explains Khamis, speaking to twas. But almost as soon as the pest had been identified as Bactrocera invadens, new reports of other infestations came in, this time from Nigeria. With the help of DNA testing, Khamis found that the fruit flies in Nigeria are a related species.
Once scientists know the genetics of a species, it becomes possible to contain the danger by developing integrated pest management techniques. Khamis is currently working on making control techniques accessible to farming families and describing the tomato pest Tuta absoluta in more detail so that a sustainable integrated method of control can also be found to combat the tomato leafminer moth.
Research record earned the award
Khamis’s achievements in her academic career convinced the Abdool Karim Award jury. The award recognises women in science for their work in biological research. “I am very pleased that we are able to co-finance such important research work and that an excellent researcher has now been recognised for her efforts”, says Loredana Sorg, who is responsible for the fruit fly control programme at Biovision. The entire Biovision team warmly congratulates her, and is pleased to see this important recognition of agroecological research.
Source reference: twas