As humans advance to solve specific problems, another set of challenges emerges. This is one of the several paradoxes of development. The protracted efforts to combat climate change and its debilitating effect on the human race has raised other problems, one of which is the invasion of some deadly parasites on the farms. Climate change and Africa’s high population growth rate and rapid urbanization necessitate intensification of agriculture in the continent, such as producing more from the same piece of land. However, more pests and diseases come with intensification, especially from soilborne threats, such as nematodes.
In a research review article titled, Plant Parasitic Nematodes and Food Security in sub-Saharan Africa, scientists discussed the effect of nematodes on agriculture across sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Danny Coyne and Laura Cortada, the lead authors of the research review article and International Institute of Tropical Agriculture Soil Health Scientists, highlight the level of damage that nematodes are responsible for in terms of yield and economic losses to be up to an estimated $100 billion worldwide. These parasites are a major threat to many crops including starch staple root crops, cereals, banana/plantain, vegetables, etc.
The symptoms of these nematode threats can be difficult to detect and may often be confused with symptoms of nutrient deficiency or water deficiency.
Nematodes not only cause specific damage but more often form disease complexes with other pathogens and pests, exaggerating crop losses. Although nematodes are responsible for greater losses to production than insect pests, in general, they are largely overlooked or ignored in research, policy, and farmer awareness training: “In the United States, nematodes were estimated to cause annual crop losses of US$10 billion, compared with US$6.6 billion for insect pest losses,” the authors say in the paper.
The research article, warns that as average temperatures rise in SSA, it is increasingly important to optimize water-use efficiency and to make better use of existing water sources to reduce the severity of the effects of nematode infection in crops.
Other recommended measures to protect against nematode threats include the use of healthy nematode-free planting material, resistant varieties, and crop rotations to suppress nematode infestation.
Farmers’ awareness and skills are equally important in minimizing nematode infestation and yield losses.
The authors also call for policies that facilitate the registration of new, biologically based products, as well as considering nematode resistance when using newer breeding tools such as biotechnology.