Better pest control in Africa and Asia through biological pesticides and insect resistant crops
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of Greenwich
Unit of AssessmentAgriculture, Veterinary and Food Science
Summary Impact TypeEnvironmental
Research Subject Area(s)
Biological Sciences: Genetics, Microbiology
Agricultural and Veterinary Sciences: Crop and Pasture Production
Summary of the impact
Research and knowledge dissemination led by Greenwich on biological
pesticides has made a major contribution to the introduction of novel safe
commercial pesticides based on insect viruses to help farmers overcome the
problems of chemical resistance in major crop pests in Asia and Africa.
Research at Greenwich identified effective virus strains, methods of
production and formulation which were then developed and evaluated with in
country research collaborators before being transferred to local SMEs to
start up production in India, Thailand, Kenya and Tanzania. Greenwich
advised governments on adopting suitable regulation to support the
registration and sale of these novel pesticides.
Insecticide-resistant crop pest species such as diamondback moth (Plutella
xylostella), cotton bollworm (Helicoverpa armigera) and
armyworms (Spodoptera species) each cost an estimated billion or
more dollars annually in damage to crops and control measures. They are
especially difficult to control in tropical Asia and Africa where
pesticide resistance is most widespread. From subsistence farmers and
their governments who cannot afford chemical insecticides, to the
exporters of horticultural crops who must meet demanding EU pesticide
residue standards banning many chemicals, populations in developing
countries need alternative control methods.
Research from 1994-2004 on baculoviruses pathogenic to these pests, led
by David Grzywacz, Principal Scientist at Greenwich, has generated key
knowledge that has underpinned the development of new commercial
insecticides. A research programme has collected, genetically
characterised and evaluated the baculoviruses of Spodoptera exigua, S.
littoralis, S. litura, S. exempta, H. armigera and P. xylostella
through a long term programme of collaborative research with India,
Thailand, Nepal, Kenya, Tanzania, Benin and Ghana. The research
(1994-2004) developed efficient production and quality control systems
suitable for production in developing countries, as well as studying
efficacy and persistence of different formulations on target crops
[3.1-3.3]. Fieldwork in India (1998-2004) also identified the issue of
limited persistence of baculoviruses on some legume crops. This has been
shown to be due to the plants' secretion of isoflavenoid phytochemicals
that directly inactivates the insect baculoviruses [3.4]: the first
published record of such a host-pathogen interaction.
Grzywacz was invited to join a private-public research partnership, the
Collaboration on Insect Management for Brassicas for Africa and Asia
(CIMBAA) [3.5] because of his research on diamondback moth. This €10
million collaboration between the universities of Greenwich, Cornell and
Melbourne, and Bayer Crop Science, successfully developed GM
insect-resistant brassicas, based on two previously unused Bt genes,
CryICa4 and Cry1Ba2, as a more sustainable brassica pest solution during
2004-10. The University of Greenwich, under Derek Russell, Principal
Scientist (1994-2012) and Grzywacz, led the public sector partners in the
project, and the field research that selected and demonstrated the
efficacy of the new GM cabbage and cauliflower for controlling DBM and
other major pests of cabbage and cauliflower in India [3.6]. In 2012
Russell left the University of Greenwich to lead a new Australian $2.9
million project to deploy this technology in Asia, Africa and Australasia.
The university led the research (1996-2005) on control of African
armyworm which identified, developed and evaluated the armyworm
nucleopolyhedrovirus as an effective control [3.2]. This involved
laboratory research to identify best virus strain and formulation for
control, followed by extensive field trials in different application
systems in Tanzania from 1999 to 2005. A second research project, funded
by BBSRC-DFID (BB/F004311/1, 2008-11) on the ecology of African armyworm
nucleopolyhedrovirus, gave key insights into armyworm population ecology
and enabled the completion of an armyworm database that has been
transferred to pest forecasters in the government of Tanzania to assist in
outbreak forecasting. It also enabled the development of the
community-based armyworm forecasting system (CBAF) adopted in Tanzania and
References to the research
(REF1 submitted staff in bold, **REF2 Output)
3.1 Cherry, A. J., Rabindra, R. J., Parnell, M. A., Geetha, N., Kennedy,
J. S., & Grzywacz, D. (2000). Field evaluation of Helicoverpa
armigera nucleopolyhedrovirus formulations for control of the
chickpea pod-borer, H. armigera (Hubn.), on chickpea (Cicer
arietinum var. Shoba) in southern India. Crop Protection, 19(1),
3.2 Grzywacz, D., Mushobozi, W. L., Parnell, M., Jolliffe, F.,
& Wilson, K. (2008). Evaluation of Spodoptera exempta
nucleopolyhedrovirus (SpexNPV) for the field control of African armyworm
(Spodoptera exempta) in Tanzania. Crop Protection, 27(1),
3.3 Cherry, A. J., Parnell, M. A., Grzywacz, D., & Jones, K.
A. (1997). The Optimization of in Vivo Nuclear Polyhedrosis Virus
Production in Spodoptera exempta (Walker) and Spodoptera
exigua (Hübner). Journal of Invertebrate Pathology, 70(1),
**3.4 Stevenson, P. C., D'Cunha, R. F., & Grzywacz, D.
(2010). Inactivation of Baculovirus by Isoflavonoids on Chickpea (Cicer
arietinum) Leaf Surfaces Reduces the Efficacy of
Nucleopolyhedrovirus Against Helicoverpa armigera. Journal of
chemical ecology, 36(2), 227-235. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10886-010-9748-8
3.5 Grzywacz, D., Rossbach, A., Rauf, A., Russell, D. A.,
Srinivasan, R., & Shelton, A. M. (2010). Current control methods for
diamondback moth and other brassica insect pests and the prospects for
improved management with lepidopteran-resistant Bt vegetable brassicas in
Asia and Africa. Crop Protection, 29(1), 68-79. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cropro.2009.08.009
3.6 Kaliaperumal R, R., Russell, D.A., Gujar, G.T., Behere, G., Dutt, S.,
Krishna, G.K., Mordhorst, A., Grzywacz, D. (2011). The efficacy
and sustainability of the CIMBAA transgenic Cry1B/Cry1C Bt cabbage and
cauliflower plants for control of Lepidopteran pests, in R. Srinivasan, A.
M. Shelton, & H. L. Collins (Eds.), Proceedings of the Sixth
International Workshop on Management of the Diamondback Moth and Other
Crucifer Insect Pests, 21-25 March 2011, Kasetsart University,
Nakhon Pathom, Thailand. AVRDC pp 305-311 - The World Vegetable Center,
Publication No. 11:755.
3a D. Grzywacz. Safe and Affordable Armyworm Control Tools (SAACO -
Tools) for poor farmers in East Africa. DFID - Research Into Use
grant. 2010-2012. £297,000.
3b D. Grzywacz. Registration and Distribution of Biological Control
Agents in Ghana. DFID - Research Into Use grant. 2010-2012.
3c D. Grzywacz. Understanding the mechanisms of persistence and
dispersal of an insect pathogen and its potential for novel strategic
control of African armyworms. BBSRC-DFID SARID grant BB/F004311/1.
3d D. Russell & D. Grzywacz. CIMBAA, The Public/Private
Partnership, the Consortium for Insect Management in Brassicas in Asia
and Africa. DFID grant. 2009-2010. £286,000.
3e D. Russell & D. Grzywacz. CIMBAA, Sustainability of Pyramided
Bt Genes for Insect Control in Crop Plants department for innovation.
Australia government. 2008-2011. £67,000.
3f D. Russell & D. Grzywacz. CIMBAA, Maximising pro-poor benefits
from the public/private partnerships: insect resistant veg for
Asia/Africa. DFID grant. 2006-2009. £351,000.
3g D. Grzywacz. Novel controls for armyworm in East Africa adopted,
demonstrated and disseminated to national and regional organisations.
DFID, Crop Protection Programme. 2005-2006. £71,000.
3h D. Grzywacz. Novel technologies for control of African Armyworm in
East Africa. DFID, Crop Protection Programme. 2001-2004. £262,000.
3i D. Grzywacz. Biopesticides development in West Africa. IITA
Grant. 1999-2003 $US 193,000.
3j D. Grzywacz. Development of biorational brassica IPM in Kenya.
DFID, Crop Protection Programme. 1999-2003. £330,000.
3k D. Grzywacz. Entomopathogenic baculoviruses for control of the
African armyworm in Tanzania. DFID, Crop Protection Programme.
3l D. Grzywacz. Investigation of biorational methods for control of
insect pests of vegetables in Kenya. DFID, Crop Protection
Programme. 1996-2000. £232,000.
3m D. Grzywacz. Development of Helicoverpa insect viruses in India.
DFID. 1993-1997. £292,000.
3n D. Grzywacz. Identification, production and formulation of insect
viruses for pest control. DFID. 1992-1996. £208,000.
Details of the impact
Local crops are critical to feeding developing nations in Africa and
Asia, and also to earning precious foreign currency from exports that can
raise living standards. So when the larvae of pests such as diamondback
moth, cotton bollworm or armyworm literally eat their way through acres of
cereals and vegetables, it can devastate the livelihoods of many thousands
of people. Each of these global pests has been estimated to cost a billion
or more dollars annually. They have traditionally required expensive
chemical pesticides which cause environmental damage, and to which they
are increasingly resistant. The University of Greenwich has worked with
governments and local people to develop effective new biological
pesticides which can be produced cheaply and locally. It has guided
strategies to overcome barriers like inadequate national pesticide
registration policies and lack of pesticide production infrastructure. It
has shared the knowledge on how to use and produce the pesticides through
national and international training, and its control strategies are
becoming the norm in many countries. The Tanzanian government based its
armyworm control policy on the research, including new knowledge about
armyworm ecology which has enabled forecasting of outbreaks. The
university was also a partner in research that successfully developed
genetically modified (GM) brassicas to resist diamondback moth and other
pests in cabbage and cauliflower.
Impact has been achieved not only through new knowledge but also long
term capacity building of research partners in developing countries, and
new small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) who produce the
biopesticides. In India for instance, new viral insecticide production
took off after Grzywacz and local collaborators led training programmes
for 16 private and public sector institutions who went on to produce many
of the estimated 45 baculovirus insecticides registered in India since
Research on developing better quality production of viruses in India led
to international guidelines for baculovirus quality and a training manual
in the techniques of baculovirus production and quality control. The
results on new virus production and formulation techniques were
disseminated actively through training courses for research institutes and
new SMEs in UK, India, Nepal, Kenya, Tanzania, Benin, Ghana and Bolivia;
they have been disseminated world-wide since 2010 by the UN Food &
Agricultural Organisation [5.2]. Private company Kenya Biologics was set
up in 2009, following research into baculoviruses in Kenya, to produce two
new biopesticides now undergoing registration. After training received in
2000-01, River Bioscience developed new baculovirus insecticides which
have been on sale in South Africa since 2008 and are currently undergoing
registration in other African countries.
Research with Thailand Department of Agriculture led to establishment of
a biopesticide company in 2008 and local production of insecticides to
control horticultural crop pests including Helicoverpa armigera
and S. exigua. This company now produces four new baculovirus
insecticides with a capacity to treat up to 30,000 ha of high value export
crops. Farmers can control these pests without chemical residues, allowing
them to export to EU, a market worth >$50 million a year.
The diamondback moth research under the CIMBAA project developed insect
resistant brassicas for Africa and Asia. A new Australian
Government-funded project (valued at $2.9 million) has now taken up the
outputs of this research to deploy the technology in India, Africa and
Australasia to control a pest estimated to cause losses of >$2 billion
per annum [5.3].
The Tanzanian Ministry of Agriculture's current policy of promoting
armyworm virus for African armyworm control in place of chemical pesticide
is based on the Tanzanian research [5.4]. The DFID Safe and Affordable
Armyworm Control Tools project has part funded the building of a
biopesticides plant by a Tanzanian company which became operational in
April 2013 [5.5]. The project also established the village community-based
forecasting system that has set up armyworm pheromone forecasting traps in
120 locations and is now operational in Kenya and Tanzania. It is
estimated to benefit 80,000 farmers in Kenya and 25,000 in Tanzania [5.5,
Few African countries had a pesticide registration system that recognised
biopesticides before 2003. Grzywacz helped the Kenyan authorities develop
a new system, adopted as law in 2008; since then over 35 biopesticide
products have been registered. Kenya's horticultural industry has
benefitted from new biopesticide products which ensure its exports to EU
continue to meet strict pesticide residue standards. An estimated two
million Kenyans are dependent upon this sector. Grzywacz also advised the
Ghana Environmental Protection agency on a biopesticides registration
system which was adopted; the first commercial BV biopesticide, produced
in Kenya, was registered in Ghana in June 2012 with Grzywacz as technical
Sources to corroborate the impact
5.1 Impact of research on biopesticides availability in India:
Dean of Postgraduate Studies, Central Agricultural University, Umiam,
Barapani Shillong, 793 103, Meghalaya, India
Vice President, Bio-Control Research Laboratories, Pest Control of India,
5.2 University of Greenwich training material on Biopesticides production
on FAO Technologies and Platforms for small Agricultural producers (TECA)
5.3 Research on development of Insect Resistant Brassicas:
Programme Manager CARiB, Dept of Agric. and Food Systems, Melbourne School
of Land and Environment, Univ. of Melbourne Australia http://www.innovation.gov.au/Science/InternationalCollaboration/aisrf/Documents/AISRFScienceAndTechnologyBiotechGCandTAOutcomes.pdf
5.4 Research on armyworm control with biological pesticide:
Director Sustainable Agriculture and Agribusiness Development, Eco Agri
consultancy Services LTD, P.O. Box 15040, Arusha, Tanzania, http://researchintouse.com/bestbets/bb35armyworm.html
5.5 Research training and consultancy to assist biopesticide producers in
- Deputy Director, DFID Research into Results Programme, Edinburgh
- Portfolio Manager, Integrated Pest Management, Citrus Research
International, South Africa.
5.6 Clark, N., Frost, A., Maudlin, I and Ward A. (2013) Biotechnology
projects: safe and affordable armyworm control tools for poor farmers in
East Africa to protect crops against devastating outbreak. In: Technology
for Development Assistance for Agriculture, Routledge, Abingdon. pp.