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Diagnosis and assessment of the red palm weevil (Rhynchophorus ferrugineus Olivier) date palm (Phoenix dactylifera L.) pest situation in Saudi Arabia and a proposal for collaboration : Mission undertaken from 8 to 16 October 2003

Ollivier L., Rochat D.. 2003. Montpellier : CIRAD-CP, 40 p.. numero_rapport: CP_SIC 1691.

The excellent organization of the mission enabled us to meet knowledgeable people and visit research facilities, be it in the field or in the laboratory. As most of the documents on the Red Palm Weevil (RPW) were in Arabic, it was difficult for us to assess the work carried out on that subject over the last ten years or so. We were only able to procure some quite general information from our hosts. Several national organizations under the authority of the Ministry of Agriculture are involved in protecting, improving and deriving optimum benefit from the palm groves. This fact-finding mission enabled us to gain an impression of the RPW problem, confirm its seriousness in SA, then assess Saudi research potential, and the approach and initiative taken in relation to the RPW problem. Our mission showed us that the situation is not under control and infestation is continuing. To date, control methods have consisted in detecting attacks through a monitoring network of pheromone traps, locating infested palms visually, treating with insecticides, felling palms when infestation is severe, and mass elimination of insects using pheromone traps in places where no infested palms are found. Research is being conducted into pest biology and improving the trapping system, but few publications in English were available to us. It seemed to us that RPW control has currently reached deadlock 13 years after the first control measures were launched, and our Saudi contacts are seeking new solutions. We felt that the preventive and curative policy applied was the right one, all in all, but difficult to apply on a regional scale and requiring farmers to be cooperative. Optimum use is not made of agronomic methods. We therefore estimate that tools must be improved, using a more effective co-attractant in association with the pheromone, that the trapping strategy will have to be revised once we have more knowledge on the pest's behaviour (how trees are colonized, movement mechanisms, etc.). We recommend taking the following 6 actions as a priority: 1. Determine a synthetic bait that mimics the plant and overcomes the need to use natural plant matter, 2. Define pest movement abilities, 3. Undertake an overall analysis of information that is available and has accumulated over the last ten years in the field (GIS), 4. Reconsider the trapping strategy based on the tool available, 5. Evaluate additional protective measures, 6. Improve control methods based on insecticides and entomopathogens. INRA is in a position to collaborate on points 1 and 2 and provide advice on points 3 and 4. CIRAD can collaborate on points 2, 4 and 5. We were unable to identify scientists likely to coordinate Franco-Saudi research work on this problem and the Saudi resources available for such work will have to be clarified. However, as our meetings and discussions stand at the moment, the laboratory work could be supervised in substance by Pr ALDRYHIM and administered by Dr Al-AYED. The field work will have to be examined by the extension services of the Ministry of Agriculture, which have ample staff, subject to a short period of specific training. We also emphasized the importance of combining a joint work programme (Saudi research and specialized French teams) with academic training for students in France (Universities, CNEARC)....

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Rapport de mission

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