Sua develops beans protein to control pests

binti ashura

Senior Member
Jan 14, 2011
CONSUMERS of beans treated with poisonous pesticides like actellic for preservation will stop running the risk of related health complications, thanks to experts at Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) in Morogoro.

SUA experts here have successfully developed resistant protein sequence capable of inhibiting bugs’ infestation even before the crop was harvested.

The Principal Investigator at the university's molecular biology laboratory, Dr Paulo Kusolwa exclusively informed the 'Sunday News’ that research findings have revealed that in most cases larva destroyed the crop before reaching the storage facilities.

The reality prompted the need for an extensive research that started three years ago with the aim to produce resistant varieties of beans not easily attacked by insects at the same time guarantee safety among consumers of beans.

“Farmers will never tell you that they have sprayed insecticides instead of applying in the powder form which they claim to be chocking. They spray to protect infestation of their crop to avoid losses,'' Dr Kusolwa explained.

He added; ''Farmers will simply tell you that they have applied ash or other harmless compounds, but researchers have discovered that farmers applied the liquid form of a variety of insecticides like actellic, malathion, shumba, Ngao usually used to treat mosquito nets and others. Unsuspecting consumers took no trouble to wash beans thoroughly before cooking,'' Dr Kusolwa cautioned.

Commenting on the effects of actellic on human body Dr Frank Kiombo from the Agricultural Seed Agency said the World Health Organization (WHO in collaboration with the World Food Programme (WFP) have recommended Actellic super dust and many others as insecticides to treat stored grain but strictly applied in the form of dust not liquid.

“Dissolved actellic becomes very toxic with long persistent effects in the body. It penetrates the seed coat leading to both short and long-term effects such as damage of the liver, respiratory problems, cancer to the blood (leukemia) and others. Actellic 2 per cent dust has protective properties against pests but any remedy applied contrary to the recommendations causes problems to consumers.” Dr Kiombo explained.

However, Sokoine researchers wanted to address the challenge and decided to teach out beans farmers all over the country and identified at least 300 locally available varieties of beans. Samples were collected for each of the variety but the focus of the research was on 12 different ‘released varieties’. The term released implied known major species currently produced in large quantities and commercialized.

The selected varieties are often attacked by insects and the protein developed by SUA was crossed to each of the released species to increase its resistance against insects. Therefore the species will be the same but with additional genetic material known as Arcelin which is capable of resisting attacks by insects. Initial results are overwhelming.

Scientists are more than happy for the breakthrough in the sense that extensive use of the resistant species would not only guarantee food security in future, but also result into protection of consumers facing health complications.

“The catchphrase ''maharage ya Mbeya maji mara moja'' literally, meaning beans from Mbeya cook fast is common but usually no second thought is given over the type of pesticides applied.

Ironically, the most preferred species of released varieties of beans like soya, punda, rungemba, kanadian wonder, lyamungo, yellow beans, red Mbeya and others are also the favourites of the attacking larva known as bruchids, traditionally found in the ''top layer'' for those who remember old days at a boarding school.

In recognition of the challenge faced by beans producers, who are compelled to sell off their harvest before it is reduced to dust in addition to related health concerns among consumers, SUA experts embarked on an integrated pest management strategy research work that combined the use of locally available botanical species and the genetic factor.

Flanked by Masters Students engaged in various research works, Daudi Mbongo and Joyce Mosile together with laboratory technologists, Deo Protas and Godbless Michael, Dr Kusolwa explained in a simplified language that through repeated laboratory tests and field work the resistant protein was developed.

''For example, destructive insects were introduced or planted in a container full of crossed species. All insects died within seven days. However, production of enough samples of the certified varieties is going on and the next step will be handing over to the Agricultural Seed Agency (ASA) for endorsement and massive production and distribution to farmers all over the country.

On the other hand, SUA researchers have devised strategies to work closely with local communities, building on the knowledge they already have.

For example, for many years villagers have been using various botanical species to control pests though in some cases they failed perhaps due to ambiguity on the required effective ratio and moisture control approach.

Some of the locally available botanical deterrents include the huge potato-like wild tuber or underground stem in Njombe, known as Lidupala, Mjui plant found in Morogoro and a kind of weed Ikanganyishe widely available in Hai district in Kilimanjaro.

These are sliced up, dried (sun baked), ground to powder and applied to legumes. Researchers continue to share knowledge with farmers through establishment of focus groups in different designated centres across the regions each with 15 members.

The centers are located in Kilimanjaro, Karatu, Bashnet (Arusah), Mbozi, Kilolo (Southern Highlands) and Morogoro.

''There are two major types of bruchids, one known as Acanthoscelides well adapted in the highlands but now spread to warmer areas and the second type is Zabrote usually thrive in hot climate.

Trade links contribute to quick wide spread of bruchids from one place to another. Daudi Mbongo is doing his Masters degree intending to identify the preventive potency of botanical plants; He said resistant species would help increase income among the farmers, who usually hurried up to sell their crop at any given price in fear of loss;

''In the recent past, fake drugs and a variety of other substandard products have reached the local markets. Through improved efficacy of locally available plants together with the crossed DNA segment the country will avoid being the dumping site for obsolete drugs,'' Mbongo observed.

Of late many families consume beans perhaps more than any other staple legumes. Retail prices are sky-rocketing, a kilogramme of red beans selling at 2,000/- especially in urban centres.


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