Fall armyworm already causing damage in northern Namibia

As temperatures increase, fall armyworm has also been spotted in maize fields in the northern parts of Namibia, near Ruacana.

According to Albertus Viljoen, manager of the government farm Etunda, the worms already occur in large numbers on young maize on the farm. The worm was first spotted on the farm in October 2016.

In December 2016, Viljoen had to plow more than 30 ha of maize, since there was nothing left to harvest due to damage caused by the worm. He could also only harvest 2 tons per ha on other parts of the farm, where he could usually harvest 7.5t/ha. He fights the worms with chemicals but since it is a new pest, there is still uncertainty on the best practices to follow.

Viljoen says they weren’t able to get rid of the worms after the previous summer. After the maize was harvested, the worm moved to wheat and vegetables like sweet potato, cabbage and tomato during the winter.

He says direct spraying kills the worm, but the moth lays eggs deep in the folds of the maize plant, where it is sheltered and can’t be killed.

According to Fanie Yssel, agriculturalist from Klein Karoo Seed, he is worried about the scale of damage that can be caused by the worm in the coming summer.

Winter is barely over and the worms are already causing severe damage in Ruacana.

“Our knowledge about the worm is still limited, since this is only the second season the pest is found in southern Africa.”

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