Iraqi Farmers Collaborate in Control of Tuta absoluta
Iraq’s vegetable growers are in the middle of a war against an almost invisible enemy: the tomato leaf miner. This nocturnal moth, known as Tuta absoluta, produces voracious larvae so small (7mm) that it is seldom noticed. Within 12-14 days, the larvae hatches and eats its way through the entire plant, rendering the vegetable damaged and completely unmarketable. If left unchecked, the entire crop from greenhouses and open fields of all Solanaceous crops (potatoes, peppers eggplants and tomatoes) could be lost, potentially depriving Iraqi growers of income from these crops which have a total country-wide value of over $500 million.
Originating in South America, this pest reached Spain in 2006, and from there, spread rapidly across the Mediterranean region, ultimately reaching South East Iraq only a year ago. By May 2011, this new pest was affecting both greenhouse and open field tomato crops in Basrah, Muthanna, Dhi Qar and Ninawa. Since then it has spread to most provinces unnoticed.
Recognizing the urgency to eradicate the pest, the USAID-Inma team enlisted the cooperation of its beneficiary farmers and the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) extension field staff in training 344 farmers on the use of pheromone traps and special screens to cover entry ways to prevent moths from entering greenhouses.
The USAID-Inma Agribusiness Program has worked with Iraqi growers to implement a number of cultural control measures that aid in the eradication of this pest. Crop rotation, crop residue removal, and destruction of infested plant material are steps recommended by USAID-Inma teams. A detailed USAID-Inma Fact Sheet describes Tuta absoluta and steps by farmers to control the pest.
As a result of the interventions, USAID-Inma reports significant decreases in infestation occurring in USAID-Inma beneficiary greenhouses, as compared to continuing crop losses for non-beneficiary growers using conventional crop protection methods.
With expanded collaborations between USAID-Inma and MOA in raising awareness about the pest and distributing USAID-provided pheromone traps, Iraqi farmers will now have the tools they need to minimize the crop damage from this invasive new pest, Tuta absoluta.
To learn more, download the USAID-Inma Tuta absoluta Fact Sheet.