The Second International Conference on Pesticidal Plants was held in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe in February 2017.

Various snapshots of work related to and arising from the Darwin and McKnight support pesticidal plants/ecosystems services projects were presented by speakers from the UK and Eastern/Southern Africa. The whole conference is currently available on YouTube, but links below lead directly to the talks given by project staff and students.



Videos here:

Angela Mkindi talk

Prof Steve Belmain keynote

Prof Phil Stevenson keynote

Dr Sarah Arnold talk

Following on from last week's McKnight Foundation meeting held in Lilongwe, Malawi, and attended by several project partners, NRI and Kew staff have spent some time with LUANAR staff in and around Lilongwe, preparing for the next phase of field sureys and trials connected to the Darwin Initiative project.

Yolice Tembo accompanied Phil Stevenson, Iain Darbyshire and Sarah Arnold into the field to view farms, meet a few farmers, observe the ecosystems and importantly, to train graduate research assistants in the fundamental sampling and monitoring techniques needed to characterise the importance of semi-natural and unmanaged areas around farmland for insect ecosystems services.


Iain and grads



In particular, the field assistants Dalitso and Kelita received training in walked transects, plant diversity surveys and pan trapping techniques.





At this time of year, this part of Malawi is hot, dry and windy and the farmers are between cropping cycles, having harvested the last season's crops but still waiting for the rain before planting the new season's crop. Therefore, it is not the most biologically diverse time of year from the point of view of invertebrates or plants. Nonetheless, some beneficial invertebrates were observed during the day's work, including spiders, lady beetles and a praying mantis.



We hope that the work in Malawi will provide us with valuable information about the importance of field margins and other non-cultivated areas in supporting sustainable yields, and also enable us to understand how generalisable certain recommendations about planting and margin management may be between countries and regions.

Greetings from the International Congress of Entomology 2016, held in Orlando, USA! Project members Phil Stevenson, Prisila Mkenda, Geoff Gurr and Sarah Arnold are attending as speakers.

Prisila Mkenda delivered an excellent talk relating to her McKnight Foundation funded research on botanical insecticide application. The talk abstract has a doi: 10.1603/ICE.2016.109117 and can be found on the conference website.

Mkenda presenting at ICE


The conference has been an excellent opportunity to present to, and interact with, leading figures in entomology from all over the world.

McKnight Foundation supported student from NM-AIST, Baltazar Ndakidemi, was recognised for his excellent photo at the recent McKnight Foundation meeting. The photo was taking during Baltazar's MSc research project in which he monitored beneficial invertebrate biodiversity on bean farms in Tanzania, providing valuable baseline data to support our McKnight and Darwin Initiative projects.


The photo shows two farmers explaining to Baltazar the importance of different plant species to them and their agriculture.


The McKnight judging panel liked that the photograph showed the idea of dialogue and two-way flow of learning between researchers and farmers.

Baltazar explains ecosystems services and plant diversity to farmers.

NM-AIST project students Prisila Mkenda and Filemon Elisante travelled to Dar-es-Salaam to attend a workshop, run by the McKnight Foundation, about analytical tools. This included a significant element of training relating to Geographic Information Systems (GIS) mapping. Using aerial images of a landscape and categorising the land coverage and vegetation types, this powerful tool enables analysis of a large geographic area, in order to understand larger scale effects of land use on local conditions.


We think that GIS could be an ideal addition to our project because there is existing evidence1 that large-scale changes in land use across a region can have profound impacts on biodiversity and hence ecosystems services.


1De Palma, A., Kuhlmann, M., Roberts, S.P., Potts, S.G., Börger, L., Hudson, L.N., Lysenko, I., Newbold, T. and Purvis, A. (2015) Ecological traits affect the sensitivity of bees to land‐use pressures in European agricultural landscapes. Journal of Applied Ecology, 52(6):1567-1577. Read here.