Zambian Minister of Agriculture Dora Siliya has called on scientists to intensify research on fighting fall armyworm, saying an outbreak of the crop-eating pests is inevitable.
“It is almost certain that we will have armyworms this farming season, and it is important for scientists and agro technocrats to help guide government in policy formulation to fight the scourge,” Siliya said.
Last year, the fall armyworm ravaged more than 172 000 ha of maize in all 10 provinces. The cost of containing the situation ran into millions of kwacha. The pests also engulfed Malawi, Zimbabwe and other neighbouring countries. This led to calls for an early warning system to effectively respond to attacks.
Recently, worms were spotted in Central Province in winter maize fields. This intensified calls on authorities to prepare adequately to tackle the pests in the coming season. Siliya also challenged farmers to enhance their role in controlling the pests through early detection.
Meanwhile, the Indaba Agricultural Policy Research Institute (IAPRI) has advised government to disburse operational funds on time to allow extension officers to effectively detect outbreaks. IAPRI, in its assessment report “Fall Armyworm Outbreak in Zambia: Response, Impact on Maize Production and Food Security”, also recommended strengthening the entomology section of the Ministry of Agriculture and encouraged farmers on the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP) to redeem chemicals.