African Tomato Crops Susceptible to Huge Damages in Traditional Agriculture Setup

tomatoes-1425779_1280Traditional farming methods are (obviously) still actively being used across most of the world. While in-ground farming is most often fruitful, it’s incredibly susceptible to outside forces, which can lead to relative disaster. One such situation is currently taking place in Africa.

Tuta Absoluta have invaded the African continent and are wreaking havoc on tomato crops all over the continent; they have spread across 15 countries and have shown no intentions of stopping. Every time Tuta Absoluta hits one country, the risk of damage is raised in all of the surrounding nations. The immediate effects of a Tuta Absoluta invasion are devastating, and their efficiency rate for destroying crops is astounding.  

The Tuta Absoluta are a species of moth that originated in South America. Their first (documented) discovery was in Peru in 1917. As a native species within that continent, it was simply a tomato pest. While it was damaging, natural predators were able to quell the major effects of the Tuta Absoluta. But, international trade has completely changed the way ecosystems operate all over the world, and at some point between 2006 and 2008, the moth was transported to Spain. From there, it rapidly spread south through the Mediterranean before jumping to northern Africa. There was a bit of peace for some time, as the Sahara desert does not provide the living conditions necessary for Tuta Absoluta to breed. But, as soon as the moths were transported across the desert, the spread through several African countries was fast. Tuta Absoluta also invaded India two years ago, and the rest of Asia is expected to be effected soon; it is predicted that both Bangladesh and Nepal will be invaded at some point in 2016.

Traditional agricultural practices leave crops exposed within their fields, and the warm temperatures of Southern Spain, the Mediterranean, and Africa mirror the climates in South America where the moths are native. But, the major difference is that there are no longer any natural predators to temper the damages; with no competition, the moths can produce 12 generations in just one year. Tuta Absoluta simply target a field in the foreign land, and begin damaging crops as soon as they begin to reproduce; the caterpillars hatch and immediately burrow into the stems and leaves of the plants they are invading. The burrowing dismantles all of the plants’ vital systems and the crops wither away.

There are several disturbing realities that have been unearthed by this foreign invasion. Firstly, the Tuta Absoluta become resistant to pesticides in just one season. Farmers in in these countries are going to do whatever it takes to regain their crops (and livelihood), which often means the introduction of extremely hazardous pesticides to counteract the damage. The second reality is that, according to Richard Hopkins of the University of Greenwich’s Natural Resources Institute

“Tuta has the potential to effectively eliminate tomato from the agricultural cycle, “

and other crops may be effected in the future as well. For one, the Tuta Absoluta also target/feed on potatoes, tobacco, eggplant, and peppers. Which leaves all of those crops (and industries susceptible).

Tomato farmers have been losing entire crops, which doesn’t only affect the amount of tomatoes available for trade and sale, its also affecting their ability to grow other necessary crops with their profits. Without the month from the tomatoes, farmers are not able to afford the farming of corn and rice either. The entire ecosystem is at risk.

To see the article that inspired this article, please see here: Bloomberg News