Healthy plants are vital to increasing agricultural productivity. Pests, disease, and weeds can reduce staple crop yields by at least 30%. IITA’s pest and disease work targets the causes of unhealthy plants and finds accessible solutions for farmers.

Tackling disease

IITA’s pest and disease work, including pioneering research with hybrid bananas in the fight against Banana Xanthomonas Wilt (BXW), ensures that farmers have speedy access to the latest science and advances in plant management and disease control.

IITA researchers and partners have successfully developed a transgenic banana that has full resistance to BXW while still maintaining traditional banana characteristics. This genetic transformation system developed and optimized at IITA is just the latest breakthrough in the fight against BXW that joins other projects that are working to develop reliable and cost-effective BXW diagnostic tools.

BXW is one of the biggest threats to banana production and the livelihoods of millions of smallholders in East and Central Africa. BXW-related losses in these regions are estimated at US$2-8 billion over the last decade.

Dealing with pests

IITA’s work on the bio control of the green mite pest, which has in the past destroyed between 30 and 40% of the African cassava crop, has saved the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) region an estimated US$1.7 billion over the last 18 years.

As a validation of IITA’s radical R4D approach in dealing with this pest, Nigeria increased its cassava production by ten million tonnes in four years. This increase has benefited eight million farmers, and 90 million consumers.