Overview of red palm weevil management in the Near East and North African Region: Current status and future challenges
Abstract: The red palm weevil (RPW) Rhynchophorus ferrugineus (Olivier) is the most destructive invasive pest of several palm species including the date palm Phoenix dactyliferaL. The date palm is one of the most ancient, cultivated tree and is well recognized not only for its depiction as a symbol of cultural and religious heritage, but also contributing immensely to the economy of the Arabian Peninsula especially Saudi Arabia. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is home of over 23 million date palms and ranks third in global date production. Unfortunately, this important fruit crop is under a constant threat of the RPW. Since its detection in the Gulf region during the 1980s, this pest has been continuously spreading and reported from almost every palm growing country of the Old World. Rapid geographical spread of this devastating pest has challenged scientists to develop the most effective and efficient detection and management techniques to save the date palm as a valuable natural resource. The published data on RPW management reveals that effective RPW control could not be realized by sole dependence on any control method. Case studies from various RPW affected countries including Saudi Arabia have determined that integrated pest management (IPM) approach including regular surveys, monitoring, cultural practices, mass trapping, phytosanitation, quarantine measures and chemical application would be the best choice for the effective and efficient area wide control of RPW. To combat the RPW threat, we are working on integrated approaches including RPW DNA barcoding, development of a high-throughput technology based on differential proteomic/transcriptomic analysis for early detection of RPW infestation, searching for the most suited pesticides/biopesticides delivery techniques, and developing of RNAi-biotech-based control measures of the RPW using reproduction control genes vitellogenin (Vg) and its receptor (VgR). The present discussion focuses on the RPW current situation, challenges and overview of various control tactics in the Near East and North African region.