Tiny Bugs to Solve Big Pest Problem

By Amanda Stone

A recent article in the New York Times described the release of 250,000 tiny wasps in cassava fields in Nakhon Ratchasima province in Thailand. The release is an attempt to rid the region’s $1.5 billion cassava crop of a plague of mealybugs. Although the wasps are smaller than pinheads, they may have the power to help farmers win the battle against the mealybug predator that is threatening to destroy Thailand’s cassava industry.

(Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

Wasp release has been used successfully in parts of sub-Saharan Africa to fight mealybug infestations of cassava crops. The technique, which may sound like using one pest to fight another, is part of a series of methods known collectively as Integrated Pest Management (IPM). IPM helps farmers manage their pests in effective and environmentally sensitive ways without resorting to pesticides. These methods, which also can include rotating among different crops, selecting pest-resistant varieties, and planting pest-free-rootstock, are often more cost-efficient than conventional practices and present little or no risk to people or the environment, unlike chemical inputs.

Amanda Stone is a media and communications intern with Nourishing the Planet.

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