SA breakthrough in fight against armyworm


A South African scientist made a breakthrough in the fight against the destructive fall armyworm by using a nematode species to kill it.

It will however take a few years before the planned biological control is commercially available.

The breakthrough was made by Dr Tiarin Ferreira, technical manager at Nema Bio. So far she found one nematode species which kills the fall armyworm within 48 hours. Two other species might also be effective.

Countries like Germany and the US also use nematodes to control insects. Brazil already uses it against fall armyworm.

The relevant species will be multiplied in tanks after registration to manufacture the biological control. It will be applied above ground or underground.

Farmers in South Africa’s Western Cape can also use the control for other pests like codling and false codling moth.


According to Prof Johnnie van den Berg, entomologist from the North West University, his team are also trying to find out if and where the fall armyworm will establish itself in southern Africa. They are using moth flight patterns and modelling.

Possible areas identified are Zimbabwe, Zambia and a small stretch in the north-eastern and northern parts in the South Africa, where temperatures are warm enough throughout the year for the insect to survive and from where the worm can invade the region again.

Van den Berg says one of the most important methods farmers can use to control the pest, is to continuously scan their crops to find the eggs as soon as possible. It is also important to control grassy weeds, and to check all crops as well as grassy areas in and around crops.

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