Pretoria – South Africa’s Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), Senzeni Zokwana, confirmed the occurrence of fall armyworm in South African maize crops.
Concerns about the possible presence of the pest were raised about two weeks ago, but scientists had to wait until the caterpillars started to pupate and emerge as moths before positive identification could be made.
A report from the Agricultural Research Council’s Plant Protection Research Institute, confirmed the occurrence of fall armyworm.
The extent of the invasion is still unclear. Positive identifications have however been made in Limpopo and certain parts of northern Gauteng.
In a statement the department says it will now begin a more comprehensive survey to determine the spread of the pest. It will also do damage assessments.
According to the department, a plant pest action group was initiated. This include representatives from provincial agricultural departments, researchers, producer associations and industries affected by the pest. This group will regularly convene to discuss progress and results.
No pesticides are currently registered to be used against fall armyworm, since it is the first occurrence of the pest in South Africa. There are fears that it might be resistant to pyrethroids, an organic pesticide used to fight its local relative, the African armyworm.
“A process of emergency registration of agrichemicals is ongoing with two active ingredients already registered to be applied against the pest,” the agriculture department said in its statement.
“As with all agricultural remedy applications, the label instructions must be followed in accordance to the suppliers recommendations.”
SADC member countries will also be notified and regional control measures will be discussed. Since December, fall armyworm has made its way through several southern African countries, including Zambia, Malawi and Zimbabwe.
“The department realises that transboundary pests and diseases, especially migratory pests, threaten food security and that coordinated regional efforts are important to address these risks.”