Incidence of Zonocerus variegatus in the humid forest zone of Southern Cameroon
Zonocerus variegatus is present in all the surveyed villages. In all these villages, variegated grasshopper is well known to the farmers and they could describe the appearance of both nymphs and adults. All the farmers' group rate it as an insect pest. Z. variegatus is ranked the 3rd most important insect pest in the area and together with borers and scale insects cause about 54% of the insect pest problems on annual crops (Table 1). On young perennial crops, mirid, borers and caterpillars are the major constraints and they cause about 59% of insect pest problems while Z. variegatus is a minor pest (Table 1). However, for the females groups of Yaoundé (for the annual and perennial crops) and Mbalmayo (for the perennial crops only), these pests have equal importance (Table 1).
Most farmers' groups (67%) reported that Zonocerus variegatus is a general feeder (polyphagous insect) (Table 2) that attacks all the annual crop species. These perceptions were higher at male (73% of groups) than female (60% of groups) (Table 2). Its food host range included cassava, groundnut and vegetables. None of the farmers' groups rated Z. variegatus as a monophagous pest on annual crops (Table 2). On young perennial crops, most groups (40%) perceived Z. variegatus as a non-harmful insect (Table 2). This perception was more pronounced in female groups (53%) than male groups (33%) (Table 2). Few farmers (23% of groups), especially the female (33% of groups) reported Z. variegatus as being olygophagous (Table 2) compared to only 13% of men groups. Their food range on perennial crops was more restricted to pear, cocoa, coffee, orange, oil palm and plum. Z. variegatus was rated by 7% (female only) of the groups as being monophagous (Table 2). In this monophagous behaviour, the grasshopper appeared to be a specialist feeder on pear or palm tree.
Factors responsible for variations in Zonocerus variegatus incidence in the humid forest zone of Southern Cameroon
Factors mentioned by the farmers
Compared to the scenario 10 years ago, most of farmers' groups (84%) surveyed in the humid forest zone reported that Zonocerus variegatus pressure in the fields has increased. These perceptions were higher in male (87% of groups) than in female groups (80% of groups). This increase of Z. variegatus incidence has been significant (73% of groups; 87% of male and 60% of female) mainly because of the increase in the surface of herbaceous fallow (73% of groups) and deforestation (60% of groups) (Table 3). Males (53% of groups) also give more importance to some factors such as high reproductive rate of Z. variegatus. Females perceived these factors as minors (Table 3). Most of other factors presented in table 3 were minors. Some factors like lack of human consumption, wide colonization of the fields by weeds, presence of cassava were only reported by males, while possible change in the Z. variegatus species has been proposed by females (Table 3).
Factors presented to the farmers
- variations in Zonocerus variegatus incidence according to fields types
All field types were damaged by Zonocerus variegatus (Table 4) but, 51% of the damage was associated to food crop fields ('Affub bidi' and 'Affub owondo'). Z. variegatus pressure was low in dry season fields ('Esseps'); young perennial crops fields; garden crops and marsh' fields ('Assans'). The pressure of Z. variegatus in groundnut fields ('affub owondo') is higher in the Mbalmayo block. In Assans and 'Garden crops', this pressure is significantly higher in the Yaounde and Mbalmayo blocks (Table 4). However, for the female groups, these block effects appeared significant only in the garden crops (Table 4).
- variations in Zonocerus variegatus incidence according to the age of the pre-farming fallow
The length of pre-farming fallow did not influence the extent of Zonocerus variegatus pressure in field crops (93% of groups) (Table 5). In the male and female groups, there were no significant differences in Z. variegatus pressure in the 3 types of fallow (Table 5). Similarly, the magnitude of the pressure did not differ significantly between blocks (Table 5).
- variations in Zonocerus variegatus incidence according to the type of adjacent fallow
The magnitude of Zonocerus variegatus pressure varied with the type of adjacent fallow in field crops (93% of male and 87% of female). In the male and female groups, it is higher in fields adjacent to Chomolaena odorata fallow and herbaceous fallow than in forest or shrub fallows (Table 6).
- variations in Zonocerus variegatus incidence according to type of season
The pressure of Zonocerus variegatus on annual and perennial crops is higher in the short dry season and highest in the great dry season. Z. variegatus damage is very low in the fields during the rainy season. No significant difference was observed between the fields (Table 7). However, on the perennial crops, differences (non-significant) in Z. variegatus incidence variations (according the seasons) have been reported by females of Ebolowa and Mbalmayo blocks. (Table 7). According to farmers, there was a block effect in the dry season on young perennial crops with the Ebolowa block having the highest damage (Table 7). However, there was no block effect in gender perceptions in the annual and perennials crops (Table 7).
In the humid forest zone of southern Cameroon, only the adult stages of Zonocerus variegatus were an item of diet (63% of groups). This feeding behavior appeared more in Mbalmayo (90% of groups) and Yaoundé (70% of groups) blocks. Z. variegatus was eaten a little in Ebolowa block (30% of groups). Some people do not eat Z. variegatus because of its body odour (3% of groups) and the fact that, consumption would result in muscular and articular paralysis (6% of groups).
Protection of crops against Zonocerus variegatus
To protect crops against Zonocerus variegatus, farmers of the humid forest zone of Southern Cameroon use chemical and physical methods. No biological or ecological methods were used (Table 8). The physical fight is very much used (77% of groups) (Table 8). Through this method, grasshoppers are collected mostly for human consumption as mentioned by 63% of the groups (61% of female and 60% of male) (Table 8). Very few groups (13%) collect Z. variegatus for use as baits in fishing. Chemical control of Z. variegatus populations was poorly practiced (27% of farmers) (Table 8). The insecticides used are décis®, diméthoate®, orthene®, cipercal®, furadan® and methyl®. There were differences in the insecticide use in various fields. In Yaounde décis® and furadan® were not used while in the Mbalmayo block diméthoate®, orthene®, cipercal® and methyl® are not used. Insecticides are not used against Z. variegatus in Ebolowa. Rains are the only natural factors against Z. variegatus though its effect is only slightly perceived in the Yaounde and Mbalmayo blocks (Table 8). Some farmers groups (23%) do not have any means of fighting against Z. variegatus especially in the Ebolowa block (Table 8).