Red Palm Weevil Elimination: Building a cage for field research
In recent years the Red Palm Weevil (RPW) has assumed a ubiquitous, major pest of economically important palms. It is found in the Middle East, North Africa, East Asia and Southern Europe and causes great economic losses. The RPW is a flying insect that spreads between date palm growing areas independently, as well as inside infected date shoots that are transferred by humans (commercial growers and domestic gardeners alike). It is difficult to identify, hard to detect and eliminate as it feeds on the inside of the trunk, finally killing the tree. International research focuses on the development of new control methods, yet some of them lack the necessary impetus due to material constrains. Consequently, knowledge and learning of the RPW management has not reached the farmers.
Western Galilee, where many palm trees are grown, is severely infected: RPW was detected in Nahariya, Kiriat Shmona and other nearby places. In the African rift area, both in Israel and in its neighboring countries, where there are many palm plantations, routine monitoring, and ongoing spraying is carried out. Yet a more effective pest-control method has not yet been found for eliminating this insect.
A quarantine facility, approved by the Israeli Plant Protection Authority (Ministry of Agriculture) is currently located in a converted bomb-shelter at Kibbutz Sde Eliahu. The facility is used by a scientist who grows a population of RPW under controlled laboratory conditions. These weevils are used to conduct experiments and to study the life cycle and the behavior of the pest, in order to offer solutions. To create natural conditions for research, an isolated cage, where date palms will be grown, is required. The cage will be used to carry out experiments such as infecting trees and following the RPW spread, its establishment inside the trunk and modes of early detection. Finally extermination methodologies will be examined. Know-how will be disseminated to farmers as it becomes available. There are no similar cages in Israel. Worldwide knowledge of this pest is insufficient. A solution that will allow researching the RPW in its natural habitat is needed.
The objectives of this project are:
To enable an environment that will allow the following RPW activities: 1) field investigation; 2) means for early detection and 3) to examine various types of legally approved pesticides: biological, chemical and others.
- To set up a facility, the first of its kind in Israel, constructed of strong metal netting – resistant to the gnawing of the RPW. (Permission for this facility has already been obtained from the Ministry of Agriculture).
- To build several labs inside the facility, each used for various studies of the pest.
- To carry out an innovative programme with 3 important components: research, implementation and know-how dissemination. It will have local effect (creating knowledge and to some extent employment and livelihood).