Among several species of insect pests that attack the millet crop, the earhead caterpillar, Raghuva albipunctella de Joannis and Acigona ignefusalis Hmps., are considered the major pests. The constraints against the successful implementation of an integrated pest management programme of these insects are examined. The relative importance and significance of host plant resistance in such a programme is compared against other modalities.
The use of insecticides is negated by lack of cash value returns, water supply, trained personnel and poor delivery system. Cultural practices, such as the synchronisation of early planting, destruction of harvest residues and end-of-season ploughing, have the potential for reducing carry-over populations. However, the difficulties in their implementation range from farmer education and efficiency to changes in traditional practices and introduction of new labour intensive practices after harvest. While it appears that natural enemies are taking a gradual toll on R. albipunctella, they appear inefficient in controlling A. ignefusalis. A range of plant characters have been identified: tillering in certain varieties as a form of tolerance to borers; maturity cycles that result in escape (pseudo-resistance) from Raghuva infestation, hairiness in relation to preference for oviposition and head compactness in deterring larval penetration into millet heads. Most of these characters are common in landrace types. The real problem appears to be one of incorporating and utilising the identified resistance into germplasm sources which possess other desirable agronomic characters that the farmer requires. This implies multi-disciplinary effort which is the basis for integrated pest management. In most of Africa, and in the Sahel in particular, this basis is remotely present.