Friday, December 13, 2013

Finding Practical Solutions for ARTS

Cassava farmers
2011 Borlaug LEAP Fellow Armand Doumtsop wants to find practical solutions to the problem of ARTS (African root and tuber scale). Tropical root and tuber crops are major staples in sub-Saharan Africa. These crops are largely produced by smallholder farmers.  Pests, such as African root and tuber scale (ARTS), are a major threat to farmer’s livelihoods. The economic consequences are serious in the Congo Basin where it can cause cassava yield losses of up to 100%.   Doumtsop research is looking at the genetics of this scale insect and the implications for the development of host plant resistance.

Armand Doumtsop, a PhD candidate at the University of Yaounde in Cameroon, used his Borlaug LEAP Fellowship to expand his professional network and develop his skills in morphological and molecular techniques.  Under the direction of Dr Benjamin Normark, he traveled to the University of Massachusetts – Amherst and, using state of the art equipment, trained in Dr Normark’s lab for six months.  The fellowship also allowed Doumtsop to survey a wide area of the Congo basin, investigate the pest problem and collect samples. His CGIAR mentor, Dr Rachid Hanna from IITA-Cameroon, supervised the fieldwork.

The research that Armand Doumtsop conducted under the Borlaug LEAP fellowship has shown that, contrary to established knowledge, this insect turns out to be a complex of species. This conclusion is based in part on evidence from Doumtsop’s painstaking morphological comparisons and anchored in the molecular genetics information he generated at the Normark lab.

Understanding ARTS diversity is only the beginning of developing evidence-based knowledge about its biology and ecology that can be used in the development of innovative management options that will limit the pest’s impact on crops.  These management options (e.g., host plant resistance and biological control) are specific to the insect and how it interacts with its host plant and antagonists.

Doumtsop plans to use his research results to develop sustainable options for pest management by providing decision-support tools, including a pest risk map and keys to develop host plant resistance in cassava and other tuber crops. This will contribute to increased yields and enhance food security and income generation for local communities.

Following completion of his PhD program, Doumtsop hopes to be involved in research projects that will contribute to food security in his native Cameroon.  He plans to transfer the knowledge he acquired during his fellowship through collaborative research, teaching of students and training of farmers’ groups.


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