Tiny pest-killing wasps for Asia’s cassava crop ease anxieties on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange

BY KRIS WYCKHUYS

An announcement for a new Broadway comedy? An economics-inspired sequel to A Bug’s Life or maybe the more recent Ant-Man movies?  Indeed, entomologists and commodities brokers appear one of the oddest couples. It’s hard to imagine a weathered field entomologist with wading boots, insect pins, and butterfly net on the trading floor of the Chicago Board of Trade. And so is it to visualize a smartly-dressed broker (ear-on-the-phone; finger high up in the air; shoes with a mirror shine) in the midst of bug-filled cassava fields in some remote corner of tropical Southeast Asia.

Yet, a new paper in Environmental Research Letters (with a supporting piece in PeerJ) shows that ample benefits can be realized when entomologists (or agro-ecologists in general), government policy makers, and commodities traders establish an effective dialogue and learn from one another. A team including entomologists, economists, commodities trade specialists, and geographers explored the impacts of the 2008 invasion of Thailand’s cassava crop by a destructive crop pest—the cassava mealybug, Phenacoccus manihoti—on price fluctuations and trade flows within global commodities markets.

Photo credit: IITA