Sahelian zone of Africa, where some of continent’s poorest people live in one of the harshest agricultural environments on earth. The millet head miner (Heliocheilus albipunctella De Joannis) is the most important insect pest of pearl millet in the Sahel. It damages the millet panicle (i.e. the flower head, where the grain is formed) and has been known to cause complete crop loss. The current recommendations for controlling this pest include measures such as delayed planting or the use of commercial insecticides, which are not very appropriate given the prevailing climatic and socio-economic conditions.Developing alternative control methods that can be adopted by farmers would help to reduce yield loss associated with the pest and have a noticeable impact on increasing millet production in the region. This project will conduct participatory research to devise an integrated management plan for the millet head miner, focusing on biological control, alternative chemical controls, and resistant varieties. The biological control research will evaluate the costs and benefits of farmer-based breeding and local release of an effective natural enemy, the parasitoid Habrobracon henetor Say, as well as attempt to identify other useful, complementary biocontrol agents. The alternative chemical control research will focus on evaluating the efficacy of locally available botanical extracts. The team also plans to screen pearl millet and evaluate their relative resistance to the pest.
The goals of this project are to:1. Introduce parasitoid breeding and release bags to farmers in regions of high MHM infestation.2. Inventory and evaluate other natural enemies of MHM for their potential use as biocontrol agents.3. Evaluate the efficacy of locally available botanical extracts against MHM.4. Screen pearl millet varieties for MHM resistance.5. Train producers and extension personnel in the best MHM strategies.