A workshop in Senegal in mid-May will gather scientists and extension workers to address the topic of invasive species in the tropics. Virginia Tech's international agricultural research program is hosting the workshop May 12-15 in the capital city of Dakar. 

The event will focus specifically on two serious challenges to agriculture in the developing world: the soil-borne disease of bacterial wilt and an insect pest, the papaya mealybug.

"By bringing scientists together and informing them of recent developments in the area of invasive species control, we can collectively address the challenge," said Muni Muniappan, director of the program that is hosting the workshop. Muniappan directs the USAID-funded Integrated Pest Management Innovation Lab managed by the Office of International Research, Education, and Development at Virginia Tech.

Bacterial wilt, found all over the tropics, attacks mostly crops from the nightshade family. These include the economically important crops of eggplant, tomatoes, and pepper. In infected soil, these plants will grow almost up to the flowering stage, then die. Bactericides and fungicides fail to rid the ground of the disease. Farmers traditionally have had to abandon their crops on an infected tract of land and, if possible, move to another area.

But the technique of grafting has changed farmers’ prospects. "By grafting scions of desirable varieties on top of resistant rootstock, one can overcome the disease," Muniappan said. Scions are young shoots that are cut specifically for grafting.

The four-day workshop, Invasive Species Identification and Management in the Tropics, will review grafting methods, as well as the latest in other sustainable, organic techniques, and includes lab work and practical training in disease identification.

The event is expected to draw scientists and extension workers from Bangladesh, the Congo, Guatemala, India, Kenya, Nepal, and Tanzania, as well as Senegal.

"The idea is that attendees will go back to their home countries and disseminate the information and training," Muniappan said.

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