Fall armyworm still a threat – expert

An agronomy expert has warned that fall armyworm still poses a threat to maize producers in the new farming season.

Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) vice president Joe DeVries called for the creation of enabling national plant protection systems in controlling the crop pest.

“We need to have concerted plans put in place to tackle the menace of the persistent fall armyworm and avoid economic hardships to farmers during the next farming season,” DeVries said.

The fall armyworm is a destructive caterpillar indigenous to the Americas. The “fall” refers to the season during which it tends to migrate to the Americas.

According to AGRA, Africa can lose US$3 billion if pest is left unchecked.

The fall armyworm, a recent interloper in Africa, attacks more than 80 different plant species, including maize, a major staple food for more than 200 million people in sub-Saharan Africa. The fall armyworm was reported in all countries in southern Africa, including Zambia where it destroyed 124 000 hectares of maize.

Hardest hit was Zimbabwe, with up to 130 000 hectares of maize infested. In Namibia, 50 000 hectares of maize was infested.

“We cannot eliminate the pest, but we can give support to farmers and provide options to manage their crops against the fall armyworm,” Devries said.

He said for preventive measures to be effective, farmers must know exactly what to do and what kind of pesticide to apply.

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