Commercial Farmers Union of Zimbabwe

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Fall armyworm here to stay, says FAO

Fall armyworm here to stay, says FAO

The fall armyworm has become a complex pest to deal with.

The fall armyworm has become a complex pest to deal with.

By Nyasha Chingono

THE fall armyworm, which broke out during the rainy season and is yet to be contained in most parts of Africa, will take long to eliminate, Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) country director David Phiri, has warned.
Speaking to The Financial Gazette last week, Phiri said the fall armyworm has become a complex pest to deal with.
He said use of random pesticides to deal with the armyworm would destroy pests that normally feed on the fall armyworm, exposing crops to more dangerous pests.
“One thing is clear, the fall armyworm is here and it will stay with us. So the best thing we can do is manage it in such a way that it does not reduce yields very much. What we have been doing is, we advise against the use of chemical pesticides which are not known to control fall armyworm,” said Phiri.
FAO is working with African governments and is in the process of coming up with an array of localised pesticides that could successfully deal with the armyworm.
“The army worm is here to stay, it’s not going anywhere. We are encouraging countries to register biological ways of dealing with pesticides. We have identified a number of pesticides already,” Phiri said.
Due to increasing fear of losing yields, most farmers had resorted to using chemical pesticides that have not been scientifically proven to deal with the fall armyworm.
“The tendency has been that farmers and countries have used these pesticides and this has reduced the biodiversity on the farms. So what we need to do is use natural methods of control,” said Phiri.
“Herbicides are selective, but generic herbicides may kill the pest that feeds on the armyworm. Chemical pesticides kill natural enemies of the fall armyworm,” said Phiri.
Southern Africa is not the only region in Africa affected by the fall armyworm. In fact, experts say it has become a continental problem, ravaging crops in many other regions.
With preparations for the 2017/18 summer cropping season under way, local farmers are worried that their crops could fall prey to the armyworm.
According to agricultural experts, the fall armyworm should be dealt with before it reaches stage three, the larva stage which is difficult to detect in the stalk of the maize plant.
Unlike the stalk borer which can be dealt with by spraying pesticides, the fall armyworm can destroy a plant without external signs.
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