Pesticide resistant fall armyworm strain hits Zimbabwe

armyworm; pests

Zimbabwean agricultural extension officers have confirmed the outbreak of a pesticide resistant strain of the fall armyworm (FAW), which has ravaged the early-planted maize crop at one of the biggest irrigation schemes in the Eastern Highlands of the country.

Allen Dube of the Musikavanhu Irrigation Scheme in Chipinge said the worms had proved resistant to the 2 types of pesticides used by farmers to control previous outbreaks.

“Our maize, which was at the early vegetative stage, has been badly affected by the latest fall armyworm outbreak. We have tried our best to contain the outbreak, but the pest is resisting the chemicals.

“We used to combat armyworm by spraying crops with Carbrayl, but this time it has not helped. Extensions officers have advised us to try another chemical called Lannatte, but it is very expensive. It costs around US$34 per litre, which is enough to spray just one hectare,” Dube said.

He said the farmers would lose their entire early-planted maize crop unless government intervened with the means to control the new strain of FAW.

This week, farmers in Southern Malawi confirmed a fast-spreading outbreak of the fall armyworm, which has been aggravated by lack of government capacity to distribute chemicals to farmers in the affected district.


The outbreaks in Zimbabwe and Malawi came as Southern African Development Community (SADC) agricultural experts and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) met in South Africa to refine strategies to contain expected FAW outbreaks during the 2017/’18 farming season.

In a statement, FAO said the meeting would set out a policy framework to guide the regional counter-FAW response in the short, medium and long terms.

“Key concerns about the fall armyworm infestation include the impact on food security and livelihoods, especially of smallholder farming households. Stakeholders will present and discuss their fall armyworm response actions, lessons, challenges and preparedness plans for the 2017/’18 agricultural season. Donors and development partners will give their perspectives on the planned fall armyworm response actions,” FAO said.

The meeting is expected to come up with a regional situation update on FAW infestation, a plan of action and a FAW plan of action for the 2017/’18 cropping season. Key messages will also be crafted to help farmers deal with fall armyworm outbreaks.

According to FAO, the FAW is an invasive species of Latin American origin, which is harder to detect and eradicate than the African armyworm. To date, FAW outbreaks have been confirmed in 22 African countries. In Southern Africa, it was detected last season, although researchers believe it may have been around for over 5 years.

Unlike the African armyworm, the South American variant is able to inflict maximum damage to food security because it feeds on a wider range of more than 80 crop species, including staple foods such as maize, rice, sorghum, wheat, cotton, canes and several vegetable crops.

Small-holder farmers who practise inter-cropping are particularly vulnerable to the highly migratory and fast reproducing pest. According FAO, the FAW is difficult to eradicate because it has the ability to “rapidly evolve resistance” to most known synthetic pesticides.

Also read:
Fall armyworm outbreak hits Southern Malawi
Companion “push-pull” crop system proves successful against fall armyworm in East Africa

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