New pest poses threat to Belize’s grain industry

The Belize Agricultural Health Authority (BAHA) has reported the presence of the pest, Asian Bean Thrip (Megalurothrips usitatus) in the country. Previously, the only place in the Americas to report this pest was Florida, USA.

 

This tiny elongated, dark yellow insect, as explained by the BAHA, measures two millimetres and can be found in flowers, tender buds and young leaves. Its main hosts are red kidney beans and black eye peas. In Belize, the pest has also been found on soybean, peanut and wild legumes species. The insect causes stunted growth and deformation of the flowers and growing tips. According to BAHA, if the pest is not controlled, it can destroy the entire crop. As a major producer and exporter, grains are an important foreign exchange earner and provides food and nutrition security for the country.

 

Jose Novelo, Director, Grain Program Coordinator, Ministry of Agriculture noted that between 40-50% of six thousand acres industryof Black eye peas in production was severely damaged by Asian Bean Thrip. The estimated value for that crop was about 8.4 million Belizean Dollars (BZD). Black eye peas is largely an export crop and farmers in the Corozal, Orange Walk and Cayo districts were seriously impacted.

 

The results of the delimiting surveys conducted by the Ministry of Agriculture, BAHA and CARDI found that the pest was distributed throughout the country. However, the infestation was most severe in the northern part of the country.

 

CARDI is part of a technical team developing national strategies for managing the pest. These include the development of monitoring and integrated pest management (IPM) strategies, capacity building activities and an education and awareness campaign.

 

CARDI plays a pivotal role in food security in the Caribbean and will continue to provide technical assistance to manage this economically important pest.

 

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