For several seasons already in Morocco, the cactus mealybug Dactylopius opuntiae (CDO), an insect probably having migrated from Spain, has not stopped ravaging and threatening the Moroccan prickly pear heritage.
Dactylopius opuntiae is currently wreaking havoc in parts of the Mediterranean, such as southern Spain, as well as in Morocco, where countless jobs depend on the 150,000 hectares currently under prickly pear cultivation.
The agricultural authorities and the various players in the sector are certainly fighting against this insect pest, with the implementation of numerous action plans and this, without skimping on investment.
But it would seem that the various projects carried out, apart from a few small feats here and there, have not been up to the expected results to limit the spread of the cochineal with the hope of eradicating it definitively.
The biological control program against the devastating insect and the alternative to resistant ecotypes having not fully borne fruit, consideration is being given to resorting to the intervention of predators to eradicate the insects.
These include a particularly effective ladybug species as well as predatory flies. Swarms of these insects imported from Mexico have been released to devour the insect that decimates the Sabra cactus producer of the prickly pear which, curiously, is native to the Americas and not to the Mediterranean regions, domesticated in Mexico about 8 years ago. 000 years.
In this context, Rachid Bouhroud, researcher at the National Center for Agronomic Research (INRA) in Agadir, told MoroccoLatestNews that “the research we are carrying out to fight the cochineal is respectful of the environment, because we are replacing pesticides with water and black soap in addition to the pruning process. This process was recently completed. It is now mainly based on the trifurcata or trident ladybird imported from Mexico, which is characterized by a great predatory power of the cactus mealybug”.
The INRA researcher added that the experience of this biological control has immediately shown positive results. Nicknamed “Mas3ouda”, which she was released in the region of Ait Ba Amrane in the south of the Kingdom (known for its variety of fruit of the fig tree Musa, where the cactus had been damaged by this insect and the ladybug managed to completely eradicate.
Our interlocutor further indicated that “thanks to the Mas3ouda ladybug, we will in the future be able to save other varieties of cacti that are not resistant to the cochineal insect, whether they are located in the south or the north of the Kingdom, a godsend. with the other variety Dalahiya”, which grows in northern Morocco. Both are considered among the best cactus varieties available in the national market.
Bohroud specifies that “this biological control experiment was carried out in partnership with the National Institute of Agronomic Research INRA and the Dar El-Si Ahmad Foundation, in addition to the company SAOAS which imported ladybugs trifurcata with a license from the National Food Safety Office (ONSSA). He added that “without this partnership between public and private sector institutions, this experiment would not have succeeded”.
For its part, the National Food Safety Office ONSSA has indicated that “the strategy it is pursuing in the fight against the cochineal insect in areas where cacti are found is based on the non- use of pesticides other than those registered nationally to treat cacti”.
“The cochineal insect control process is carried out under the supervision of the plant protection services of the office and does not pose any danger to the health and safety of humans, animals and the environment,” added the l ‘ONSSA.
The office added that the chemical pesticides used to control the cochineal insect are not used in the fields during the cactus harvesting period, and that the list of authorized agricultural pesticides is published on the official website of the Office. .
The latter specified that “fields of cacti affected by the virus are treated against the cochineal insect by spraying using manual mechanisms, in addition to the use of aircraft“, stressing that “the aerial treatment of cochineal insect cactus fields is made using only organic materials“. And to continue: “In order to ensure a correct and rational use of agricultural pesticides to fight against cochineal, ONSSA organizes awareness days for farmers on the use of these pesticides, as well as sprayers“.