Scientists and researchers, including those from Virginia Tech, gathered at the International Congress of Entomology in Orlando, Florida last month.

The Virginia Tech-led Feed the Future Integrated Pest Management Innovation Lab led a symposium at the Congress on the global spread of the South American tomato leafminer, Tuta absoluta, resulting in the group recommending a number of measures.

  • Expand the Invasive Species Modeling project led by Virginia Tech’s Biocomplexity Institute to develop a network for predicting the pest's spread on a global scale.
  • Undertake a concentrated effort to look for natural enemies in Tuta absoluta’s area of origin in South America.
  • Encourage donor agencies to support Tuta abosluta management programs on a global scale.
  • Organize regional and international meetings on Tuta absoluta monitoring and management.
  • Provide information on appropriate insecticide rotations for pest management in the fields.
  • Prepare an international roster of people working on the problem.

The tomato leafminer is devastating and moves fast. In the past decade, it has gone from affecting 3 percent to 60 percent of the world’s tomatoes. The symposium drew nearly 70 participants from countries around the world – Nigeria, Canada, Costa Rica, Spain, India, and others. It ended with participants sharing their recommendations on how to work together to try to halt the pest’s spread.

The pest is currently in more than 50 countries around the world. This past spring, it wiped out 80 percent of Nigeria’s tomatoes. The pest has not yet reached the United States, but it is already as far north as Costa Rica, and many scientists believe it is only a matter of time before it reaches North America.

“When it comes to controlling a pest as destructive and pervasive as Tuta absoluta, it is imperative that we all work together," said Muni Muniappan, director of the Integrated Pest Management Innovation Lab.

The International Congress of Entomology, like the Olympics, is held every four years, and countries bid to host it. In addition to the symposium on the tomato leafminer, the Innovation Lab also organized a symposium on integrated pest management for tropical crops, including presentations from project partners working in Nepal, Bangladesh, and Vietnam.

A related exhibit detailed information about eight projects around the world that work to curb food insecurity by fighting agricultural pests in an environmentally friendly manner.

The Integrated Pest Management Innovation Lab is a project of the Office of International Research, Education, and Development, part of Outreach and International Affairs.

Written by Stephanie Parker

Share this story