Overview of Pest Research

The SPMC has a very strong bias in research on rodents and other small mammals that are recognized locally and internationally. The nature of its peculiar specialization has enabled the SPMC to be recognized as a “centre of excellence” in rodent pest research in Sub-Saharan Africa, which has led to research collaboration with scientists from all over the world and greatly enhanced funding opportunities.

However, there have also been missed opportunities to conduct basic and applied research and equally excel in studies of other pests including invertebrates. This responsibility is now recognized, and as a way forward to broaden research at SPMC to cover a wider spectrum of pests.

Increasing pest problems

The SPMC envisages major changes in the external environment related to land use patterns, interactions between people and pests due to closer proximity and climate changes and its effects on pest populations.

Intensive agriculture and expansion of land for crop production always, as a rule, lead to more increased pest problems. This also leads to more interactions between people and pests. Insect populations are influenced by temperature and other environmental conditions, and hence future changes in climate can be expected to affect insect outbreaks in all kinds of crop and forest scenarios. In some cases, larger and more frequent insect outbreaks may occur, but in other cases, recurring outbreaks may be disrupted. Climate changes, in particular, elevated temperature, are predicted to shorten the life cycle of pests, thus more generations and higher.

Invasive pest species

The SPMC coordinate efforts to combat the introduction of invasive species which have been a common phenomenon in agriculture, forestry, crop storage and livestock industry. Already pioneering studies on fruit flies and the larger grain borer have provided solutions to these pest problems. As trans-boundary trade between Tanzania and neighbouring countries increases, the risk of invasive pest species is much higher. All potential mitigation or management strategies are evaluated to manage invasive species.

Research Areas

Biological and ecological research with emphasis on:

  1. Identification of pests vs beneficial species found on various cultivated and fallow lands.
  2. Study of the biology and ecology of the pests (morphology, life cycle, breeding behaviour, feeding habits, density and population dynamics.)
  3. The determination of seasonal patterns of pest outbreaks, and of predisposing factors of outbreaks.
  4. Establishing the optimal time during the life cycle for the management of pest species.
  5. Developing biological agents appropriate for the management of specific pests, with reference also to traditional systems.
  6. Survey of potential indigenous bio-control agents in forestry.

Management of pests

  1. A better understanding of the biology, ecology, and population interactions of pests and hosts.
  2. Minimizing the risks of pests’ potential to destroy crops, or transmitting diseases.
  3. Development of early warning systems in pest management.
  4. Reducing the probabilities of secondary pest outbreaks and pest resurgence.
  5. Developing selective control methods which are less destructive to natural competitors or enemies of pests.
  6. Developing methodologies to manage pests, which do not harm the health of farm crops, animals, humans or the environment.
  7. Beneficial exploitation of pests.

Short-term Research Activities

  • Taking an inventory of past and present (ongoing) pest research activities at SUA with respect to infrastructure, equipment and human resources.
  • Charting out strategies for coordination of ongoing pest research activities, and setting out priorities for funding of future activities under the Centre. In short, the centre shall prepare its own “strategic plan" for a period of 10 years.
  • Preparation of a web page on the internet to promote the centre in and outside Tanzania.
  • Supporting ongoing pest research projects and to negotiate their extension where applicable.
  • Establishment of links with stakeholder institutions in Tanzania which are actively doing pest research, or which have carried out pest research in the past.
  • Preparation of a web page on the internet to promote the centre in and outside Tanzania.
  • Establishment of a national/regional data bank and information network system to facilitate interaction with national/regional pest research institutions. This information network system shall be in the form of a periodic Newsletter on the internet which shall contain contributions from in-country, regional and international researchers on matters of pest research.
  • Holding at least one Workshop in the first 5 years of SPMC existence, in collaboration with national, regional, and international pest research institutions.
  • Prepare a postgraduate curriculum to cater for MSc and PhD degree programmes in basic and applied pest research. Long-term research activities Strengthening the Centre’s infrastructure. This shall involve reviewing the existing infrastructure (buildings and equipment) and soliciting funds for expansion of the Centre with the goal to accommodate as much as possible of all Centre’s activities within one complex.
  • Review the Centre’s organizational structure with the aim of expanding/refining its Sections.
  • Strengthen consultancy activities geared towards income generation in order to reduce the dependency of the Centre on SUA (Government) budgets, and on donor funding

Guest Researchers at SPMC

SPMC host visiting research associates and attach them to the various sections in accordance with their research specialization. Some of the Guest Researchers at SPMC: 2006 – Onwards.

Steven Panhuyzei

MSc. student

Title of research

Transmission of Morogoro virus in its natural host.

The University of Antwerp, Belgium

Maddy Wheatley

MSc. student

Title of research

Is landscape use affected by personality in Mastomys natalensisis?

The University of Antwerp, Belgium

Bram Vanden Broecke

PhD. student

Title of research

Does Personality affect virus transmission? Using Mastomys natalensis and Morogoro virus as a model system.

The University of Antwerp, Belgium

Aurelia Bongers

MSc. student

Title of research

Theritability of Exploration in Mastomys natalensis.

The University of Antwerp, Belgium