Despite an increase of 57 000ha (from 115 000ha to 172 000ha) in fall armyworm invasion of maize lands, 70% of invaded lands were out of danger after spraying, while 30% of infested lands were still to be sprayed.
This was according to Patrick Kangwa, national co-ordinator of the Zambian Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit (DMMU) speaking at a weekly briefing in Lusaka.
In a strategic move the DMMU had asked for help from the country’s neighbours, Malawi and Zimbabwe. “Working like this we should be able to stop cross-border invasion of the fall armyworms,” Kangwa said.
Reports of red locust swarms assembling on the Kafue flats had stimulated joint engagement by the three countries on this threat, in addition to the fall armyworm threat, he said.
Improved responses from Government
Dr Frank Kayula director general of the National Union for Small Farmers in Zambia (NUSFAZ) said the government had responded to the fall armyworm invasion as soon as they received reports of the maize losses. “The government sent out experts to verify [the presence of the pest], it set up a call centre at the DMMU and it released funds to purchase chemicals for free distribution to affected and unaffected areas,” Kuyula said. All steps had been implemented within a month, which was a significant, and encouraging, improvement on the 2012 response to an outbreak, he said.
At a weekly briefing in Lusaka, Kangwa said Copperbelt and Southern Province were the hardest hit areas. In these regions, state operatives were assessing the damage. Spray programmes and damage control had been initiated in the recently-invaded Pemba district where 100 000ha was affected.
Kangwa said the government had bought 87 000 litres of pesticide and had used 71 000 litres up to this stage.
Identification and follow-up
There had been some initial difficulties with pest identification, said Dr Kayula, “This was because fall armyworm have similar consumption patterns and attack modes to those of the stalk borer,” he said.
According to Kayula, recommended pesticides, Cypermethrin, Malathion and Rogor cost about ZMW120 to ZMW150 per litre, and have a prescribed dose of one litre for every 2ha.
The key to saving maize lands was to stay vigilant and keep scanning fields for signs of fall armyworm presence, Kayula said.
Kangwa echoed this advice, asking farmers to stay alert and immediately report any suspicious sighting of fall armyworms, even in areas that had been stabilised.