Scientists tame notorious grain borer

17-04-2008 | |
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

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.

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

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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