Tuta absoluta is an invasive insect that originated from South America and has spread to Europe Africa and Asia. Since its detection in Spain in 2006, the pest is continuing to expand its geographical range, including the recent detection in several Sub-Saharan African countries. The present study proposed a model based on cellular automata to predict year-to-year the risk of the invasion and spread of T. absoluta across Africa. Using, land vegetation cover, temperature, relative humidity and yield of tomato production as key driving factors, we were able to mimic the spreading behavior of the pest, and to understand the role that each of these factors play in the process of propagation of invasion. Simulations by inferring the pest’s natural ability to fly long distance revealed that T. absoluta could reach South of Africa ten years after being detected in Spain (Europe). Findings also reveal that relative humidity and the presence of T. absoluta host plants are important factors for improving the accuracy of the prediction. The study aims to inform stakeholders in plant health, plant quarantine, and pest management on the risks that T. absoluta may cause at local, regional and event global scales. It is suggested that adequate measures should be put in place to stop, control and contain the process used by this pest to expand its range.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.