06 July 2018

New app as a weapon against larva invasions

This news is redirected and translated by The Secrerariat for Development Cooperation at SCIENCE from Verdens Bedste Nyheder.

There is an app for everything. With a new mobile app, farmers in African countries can fast decide whether larva on corn plants are harmless or if they are one of the infamous armyworms which quickly multiply and have an enormous appatite for corn. The armyworm has invaded Africa since 2016 in a recordtime and local farmers have thus not yet learned to recognize nor fight it. The sudden invasion has even led to panic in some places.

The app helps farmers fight the destructive armyworm. If nothing was done to stop the larva's march forward, it would push 300 million people into starvation according to Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), which is why FAO called to battle against the larva.  

As part of FAO's efforts, they have developed the app 'Nuru', which is used by holding your phone toward the corn plant. The app analyzes the plant and answers whether the armyworm or other kind of larva are present. If the app is unsure you can send a picture to a human expert who will settle the matter.

Even though an app in itself is no solution to the armyworm-problem there are actually several concrete things the farmer himself can do to persist the attack when he or she know what sort of problem they have in the corn field. The farmer should not use insecticide because it also kills other insects such as ants and small ichneumon flies who are the natural enemies of the armyworm. And in many cases the harmfull larva can become immune to the insecticide anyway, FAO writes.

In stead one should use natural methods. Studies from Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania show that by planting certain useful plants in the cornfield it is possible either to scare or lure the larva so it moves away from the corn. This can make the number of larva on each plant drop with more than 80 percent without using incecticide.

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