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News 406 views last update:7 Aug 2012

Scientists tame notorious grain borer

Scientists in Uganda have managed to tame a notorious woodland grain pest, the large grain borer, which was a "serious threat to post-harvest in the country."

About 30% of the national food harvests are lost annually due to lack of proper post-harvest handling. Dr. Ambrose Agona, the director of National Research Laboratories in Kawanda, attributed the control to the relative peace in northern Uganda. "The pest had been contained in other parts of the country save for Kitgum and Gulu districts." Agona said the large grain borer, Prostephanus truncatus, was, for the last few years, the biggest threat to stored grain. The pest can cause up to 100% loss in less than six months.

Biological approach
The borer has been knocked out biologically using its natural enemy, Teretriosoma Nigrescens (TN). Dr. Agona said they had previously used chemical control strategies to control the large grain borer. But, he said, there were environmental dangers in the application of the chemicals.

Pheromones
TN was identified in Central America as a host-specific prey of the borer. This predator locates its prey using the prey's aggregation pheromone. Pheromones are a natural scent from body hormones that send a signal to the opposite sex for the purposes of mating. When the borers send the pheromones to either a female or male of its type, the TN smells the pheromone, finds and feeds on the borer.

The borer, originally from Mexico and Central America, was accidentally introduced into east and West Africa in the late 1970s and early 1980s through food relief.

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(Source: AllAfrica.com)

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