IWGO Conference 2019

IWGO Conference 2019 delegates

Nearly 100 experts from more than 20 countries around the world convened to present the very latest research on how to fight a range of devastating maize insect pests – including corn borers, rootworms, bollworms and fall armyworms – that threaten global food security.

Scientists from Australia, China, the USA and various countries in Europe and Africa, gathered to present their research and recommendations on how to tackle maize insect pests as part of the 27th International Working Group on Ostrinia (IWGO) Conference and other maize pests held in Engelberg, Switzerland.

The IWGO is a global working group under the International Organisation for Biological Control (IOBC) which has been meeting since 1968 to see how science can help protect maize – a staple food source for 900 million people in developing countries who earn less than US $2 a day.

As part of the conference led by CABI and with Dr Ulrich Kuhlmann, CABI’s Executive Director, Global Operations, as convenor, many scientists from Africa and East Asia joined the conference due to the recent spread of fall armyworm to India, China and other parts of these continents.

Damage caused to maize by fall armyworm

Damage caused to maize by fall armyworm

CABI scientists co-organised three sessions and provided six talks and three posters during the four-day conference which also saw Dr Zhenying Wang, from the Institute of Plant Protection, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, and Dr Tom Sappington, of the USDA-ARS Corn Insects & Crop Genetics Research Unit Genetics Laboratory, serve as co-convenors.

Dirk Babendreier (CABI Switzerland) helped lead a session on non-chemical controls of the fall armyworm, Dr Stefan Toepfer (CABI Switzerland), co-organised a session on environmentally-friendly control options of soil pests in maize and Hongmei Li (CABI East Asia) co-led a session on free topics.

Meanwhile, three PhD students of CABI or co-supervised by CABI also joined the conference and presented their research topics. These included Szabolcs Toth, from the University of Gödöllö, Hungary, Patrick Fallet, of the University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland, and Léna Durocher-Granger from Wageningen University in the Netherlands.

Dr Kuhlmann said, “Maize is the most important food crop in Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. It is also a key crop in Asia. In Sub-Saharan Africa alone, maize is consumed by half the population and is the food of preference for 33 percent of all malnourished children.

“However, like many other staple foods it is not immune to the threats posed by a variety of crop pests – including the fall armyworm which can destroy between 40-70 percent of maize yield.

“The IWGO Conference was an opportunity to share knowledge and best-practice Integrated Pest Management solutions – especially more sustainable biological controls where possible – to help millions of farmers around the world grow more and lose less to pests while at the same time enhancing their livelihoods and regional, national and global food security.”

In response to the current global fall armyworm threat, the IOBC global working group launched a subgroup under IWGO focussing on the fall armyworm. The overall objective of this new subgroup is to establish an independent, internationally recognized platform for the exchange of research results, experiences and ideas on biological control-based pest management of fall armyworm. As a first action, the fall armyworm subgroup will organize skype/video conference meetings to facilitate the coordination of current international and national research efforts in the field of augmentative and classical biological control.

The IWGO Conference was sponsored by Syngenta, the MARA China-CABI Joint Laboratory for Biosafety and Corteva Agriscience. The IOBC Global Travel Award supported six early career researchers from China, USA, Croatia, France and Kenya to attend the conference.


Additional information

Learn more about how sustainable methods to fight crop pests from the CABI Study Brief ‘Safeguarding the environment, food security and livelihoods from invasive species using biological controls.’

See also the relevant news story ‘Continuing the biological fight against a hardy foe – the maize-devastating western corn rootworm’ and the story of impact ‘Helping farmers manage fall armyworm as it takes hold in Africa and spreads to Asia.’