The Royal Entomological Society held a regional meeting at the University of Greenwich on 9th January 2019, themed around Insects: Tools for Life and Death (to encompass both the role of insects in forensic entomology and decomposition, but also in ecosystem health, livelihoods and conservation). Around 35 delegates attended from the south east of England and beyond.
As part of the meeting, Sarah Arnold gave a short talk presenting some of the results from the Darwin and McKnight supported work about the role of pollinators and natural enemies in ensuring bean production and yield. It was a good opportunity to share the progress so far and reflect on the real benefits that can be gained from managing land for beneficial biodiversity.
The UK team (Phil Stevenson, Steve Belmain, Tory Woolley and Sarah Arnold) joined the Malawi team (Vernon Kabambe, Yolice Tembo) at LUANAR to carry out field site visits, scoping for the upcoming planned fieldwork as part of NaPROCLA, and to catch up with the McKnight Farmer Research Networks.
At this time of year farmers are still waiting for the rains and deciding what crops to plant, and timing the planting optimally. As the dry season has continued for some time, there are not a lot of flowering plants actively growing/blooming so nectar availability for natural enemies such as parasitoid wasps may be low. NaPROCLA will seek to investigate this more.
L-R: Phil Stevenson, Tory Woolley and Yolice Tembo consider a Tephrosia plant and examine it for insect activity.
The Farmer Research Networks meeting was engaging, as the farmers had many specific questions about the uses of pesticidal plants on fields, and feedback about the process. They unanimously agreed that pesticidal plants really do work, but have reservations about the labour involved. After farmer-led discussion and votes, they agreed that the next stage of their research will focus on combining different species and testing their efficacy as combinations.
Yolice Tembo and Steve Belmain feed back to farmers about the pesticidal plant research so far and listen to farmers' ideas about future directions.
Natural Pest Regulation for Orphan Crop Legumes in Africa is a new project (BB/R020361/1) funded by the BBSRC GCRF programme, under the SASSA scheme. It involves the Agricultural Ecosystems team - NRI, NM-AIST, LUANAR and Egerton University.
The project will seek to optimise the management of field margins in order to maximise natural pest regulation potential across multiple under-researched crops in Eastern African. This will involve molecular elements to provide identification tools for key beneficial insect species, fieldwork, resistance screening and station trials.
The inception meeting was held on 12th October 2018 in Arusha, Tanzania, with partners organising implementation of the different activities and contributing ideas and contacts. The project will build on underpinning research already carried out as part of the Darwin Initiative project between RBG Kew, NRI, LUANAR and NM-AIST but develop the pest management angle further. As a result, we look forward to continuing to collaborate and draw on expertise of early-career scientists such as Prisila Mkenda who has been studying field margins and natural enemies during her PhD and MSc students such as Juliana Godifray who carried out work on companion planting pesticidal plants.
The project team at the inception meeting visit to NM-AIST.
Prof Stevenson meets with Elisante and Prisila to talk about their work, findings and ideas for future research.
The NaPROCLA team is excited to welcome new post-doctoral research assistant Dr Victoria Woolley to the project. Dr Woolley joins the project from a PhD at the University of Warwick where she worked with the Warwick Crop Centre team on IPM and specifically biopesticides. She brings her expertise in molecular work, entomology and pest management together to support the project. Dr Woolley will be based at NRI but will be visiting all the project partners and working alongside all members of the team as the work packages are implemented.
Credit: University of Warwick | Victoria Woolley presenting some of her previous work at the RES postgraduate forum, 2017.
Project staff and students met in October 2018 for the McKnight Foundation Annual Meeting in Arusha, Tanzania. These meetings bring together regional research and allow McKnight-supported projects to exchange ideas, build new networks and report on their progress. Profs Steve Belmain and Phil Stevenson attended from the UK, along with NM-AIST partners.
The team was delighted that project PhD students Elisante Filemon, Prisila Mkenda and Angela Mkindi all won prizes for their outstanding presentations. They have carried out some very exciting research, revealing more about the dynamics and networks of field margins and the potential to engage farmers in sustainable intensification using Farmer Research Networks. More results are still coming through and all three students are working on publications.