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Lupin Pest Management in the Ecuadorian Andes: Current Knowledge and Perspectives

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The Andean lupin (Lupinus mutabilus), also known as Tarwi or Chocho in Quechua, is an important crop in several countries of the Andean Cordillera (e.g., Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Chile). Its grains are rich in protein (41–51%) and essential fatty acids (3–14%), which are often missing in Andean diets. As a legume, its symbiosis with the bacterium Bradyrhizobium allows the fixation of atmospheric nitrogen and subsequent soil enrichment (between 40 and 80 N kg/ha/y). There are also dozens of wild varieties of Lupinus in the Andes that provide soil cover as well as habitats for beneficial insects, and even bioindicators for mid to long range climate forecasting which have been used for centuries. In addition, the Andean lupin has medical properties such as nutraceutical effects for diabetes therapy. Lupin has been an important crop in the rotation since its domestication more than 1,500 years ago. During the Spanish colonisation of Latin America in the sixteenth century, many native crops, including lupin were disparaged as Indian food, and the cultivation of wheat and fava beans were promoted. The indigenous cultures of the Andes managed to conserve many of their native crops and practices over centuries of marginalisation, and many Andean people, often from the lower social economic classes and indigenous cultures, continued to eat lupin, quinoa, amaranth and other native foods. This allowed the preservation of some of lupin genetic diversity (e.g., around 250 local varieties are found today in Ecuador). However, the formal research system ignored these crops since they were not exported and not visible to many elites of the Andean society. That began to change in the 1990s and the 21st century with the quinoa export boom and subsequent interest from health-minded consumers in the global North in formally marginal, nutritious crops. This enthusiasm spread to Andean society elites, especially in Ecuador where lupin consumption was always strong among more popular market segments, which found renewed interest in this food. It began to be prepacked and sold in high-end supermarkets in the early 1990s. From a farmer viewpoint, it became an important source of income for communities and a trigger for the rural economy. Today, 8,000 to 10,000 ha of lupin are sown in Ecuador (mainly in Cotopaxi, Chimborazo, Pichincha and Imbabura provinces), yet more than 80,000 ha of land would be suitable for its cultivation. This underutilisation of suitable land is particularly alarming because the demand for Andean lupin is bigger than the supply, which incentivises importations from Peru and Bolivia. The expanding producers' and consumers' interests in the Andean lupin led it being considered more in the formal Ecuadorian research sector, with the National Agriculture Research Institute (INIAP), developing in 1987 an "Andean grains" research program that included lupin, quinoa, and amaranth. Initially INIAP worked on varietal selection, seed systems and crop management. Two varieties improved by selection of a Peruvian germplasm (Iniap 451 Guaranguito and Iniap 450 Andino) were released, the latter having relatively high yields (600–1200 Kg/ha) and being the most commonly sown. Common farmer yields with traditional varieties are only around 250–430 kg/ha. But by 2005 it was becoming more evident that there were major pest and disease problems. For example, in Ecuador, the larvae of the fly Delia platura (Diptera: Anthomyiidae) might cause an average of 56% of crop losses. Up until that point, INIAP had been testing and recommending various pesticides to combat these problems, but its main funder for this research asked them to research more ecological technologies. Some initial research in conjunction with the French National Research Institute for sustainable Development (IRD) was undertaken to review research that had been done with other lupin varieties in Europe and Australia. However, apart from some initial work done in Ecuador and Bolivia, there is minimal research on pest and disease management in Andean lupin. In 2017, our team initiated a collaborative research project with lupin grower communities to develop a system-centric approach of L. Mutabilis pest management. The four main objectives of this project are: 1) to acquire basic knowledge on the biology and population dynamics of lupin pests; 2) to test whether agricultural landscape intensification affects lupin pest abundance, damage and biocontrol by antagonists; 3) to develop and test biological pest control practices as alternatives/complements to the use of pesticides; and 4) to document lupin growers' socio-economical strategies and assess how farmer organisation may influence pest management. Here, we provide information on Andean lupin pest ecology and management based on the preliminary results of our project and existing data in the literature.


Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2017

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