Chinese Insect Eating Citrus Plants Invades East Africa

Scientists in Tanzania and Kenya are currently grappling with a new disruption caused by an insect believed to have originated from Far East of the World China.

This insect has been identified as Diaphorina Citri and zoologists say it is responsible for transmitting a bacterium in plants that causes a disease known as Citrus Greening Disease.

Citrus Greening Disease has been well known for destroying hectares of citrus plants in major producing countries in Asia and America in the past decade.

Citrus is produced in most countries in Africa. In east Africa, Tanzania ranks third in citrus production after Kenya and Madagascar with a total production of about 45084 metric tons annually, according to the UN FAO.

Tanzanian scientists say, although the insect exists in the East African country as per the recent study, no destruction to citrus production caused by its Citrus Greening Disease, has been significantly recorded.

Mohamed Mpina, a senior research scientist in plant protection from the Tropical Pesticide Research Institute (TPRI) says, “Plans are underway to establish any potential risk. we are currently raising awareness among farmers.”

Another lead author of the study, Dr. Fathiya Khamis, a molecular biologist and a research scientist at the International Centre of Insect and Pest Ecology (ICIPE) said that citrus greening disease which is related to the insect is incurable, explaining why the study is advocating for preventive measures.

Africa’s citrus industry is under imminent threat because the pest is spreading fast in the continent and with it , the devastating citrus greening disease (HLB)”, says Dr Khmais who is currently researching on the invasive and non-invasive fruit flies and other pests of economic importance to agricultural sector.

Farmers in these coastal economies are using contact and systematic insecticides such as Phosmet, Thiocylam and imidacloprid which are not human and environmentally friendly.

“These pesticides are toxic and have deleterious effects on human health. The insecticides also pose a threat to non-target insects especially the ecosystem service providers such as pollinators as well as natural enemies such as parasitoids and predators, she said.

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