Eco-friendly techniques are being applied to step up the control of the tomato borer in the Near East, FAO reported in July 2012. The tomato borer has been damaging crops in the region for several years. As tomatoes are the most economically important crop in the region, many people are affected by this pest.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is stepping up its response to a tomato-eating moth that is threatening crops in the Near East, FAO reported in mid-July 2012. Along with partners in affected countries, FAO is emphasising "soft" pest control programmes against the tomato borer that have already succeeded in minimising damage in the Mediterranean, including North African countries.
Planning is currently underway for a sub-regional project to manage the tomato borer, or Tuta absoluta, in Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen, drawing on techniques used most recently in various Mediterranean countries. The idea is to keep damage to a minimum with environmentally and economically sustainable methods that reduce the heavy use of pesticides, and favour the use of natural enemies and "attract-and-kill" pheromone traps.
Tuta absoluta also feeds on various plants in the nightshade (solanaceae) family like potato, eggplant, pepper, common beans, and some related weeds, but the tomato is the most economically important crop in the region and all tomato farmers in the region are considered affected or vulnerable.
The small, brownish moth was first introduced from South America into Spain in 2006 and later spread to countries in the Mediterranean Basin and the Near East in 2008 – encompassing territories as far north as Switzerland, south as Morocco and Algeria, east as Turkey, and Arab Gulf states to the southeast.
"There are two reasons why we aim to reduce the level of pesticides used: First, the heavy application of chemicals is not environmentally sustainable. Second, the tomato borer has been known to rapidly develop resistance to insecticides," said FAO pest management expert Khaled Alrouechdi.
Integrated Pest Management
FAO has been using Integrated Pest Management (IPM) schemes in affected countries to develop low-toxic, affordable approaches to pest control, including:
reduced use of chemical pesticides and selection of natural ones
pheromone traps that lure the insects by mimicking potential mates
the release of natural enemies (predators and parasitoids of the tomato borer)
the use of insect-proof screens and double doors in greenhouses
nursery management and insect-free planting materials
removal of infested crops and wild host plants
rotating crops with non-solanaceous varieties that do not appeal to the insect.
FAO has directly trained some 15 000 farmers in the Near East in IPM techniques and contributed to improving the cost effectiveness of production and net returns of many others. IPM is designed to improve the control of various pests by reducing the harmful effects of pesticides on human health and the environment.