Mahangu Crops Under Worm Attack

The mahangu crop yield in the north is under threat from the outbreak of worms feeding on unripe grains. Agricultural officials have classified the worm pest as the bollworm. Bollworm is the common term for the larva of a moth that feeds on the plant’s fruiting bodies.

Farmers in Oshikoto, Oshana, Omusati and Ohangwena regions reported the outbreak last week with some expressing fears of a poor harvest unless they get emergency assistance with fumigation of their crop fields. The worms are said to be rapidly destroying the crops, already leaving fields visibly damaged.

Good rains received during March helped to revive crop growth and restore hopes of a good harvest. However, the hopes are fading again with the worm outbreak.

Agricultural technicians in the Ministry of Agriculture Water and Forestry aised villagers to try and use traditional methods to control the worms, maintaining that the use of pesticide can be harmful to the ecosystem.

Agricultural technician Lucia Iipinge said although she had never seen the bollworm before, village elders told her of an outbreak many years ago and that they used traditional ways to control them. Other means of controlling the worms include allowing birds to feed on them, handpicking and shacking them off the crops.

“Our people love chasing the birds away from mahangu fields or killing the birds, but the birds feed on the worms. We should let the birds be,” said Iipinge.

Iipinge said hundreds if not thousands of eggs are laid inside the head of an immature millet plant and the larvae feed from inside the plant.

According to Wilhelmina Gideon from Okaku village in Oshana Region, she noticed the worms on her mahangu (pearl millet) crops last week. Gideon’s family took action by handpicking the worms and burning them.

“We’ve been doing that over the past two days but this did not help much because when we went back to the same place where we collected the worms, we found the mahangu crop covered by as many worms as the ones that we collected,” explained Gideon.

Said Gideon: “These things (worms) are increasing every day. If you come here in the morning you’ll see the crops are covered, but they disappear as the sun rises,” said meme Anna Ashikoto from Oluhwa village, also in Oshana Region.

Anna Fillemon also an elderly from the same village said she remembered the bollworm or similar worms from many years ago, but the plague then was not as big as the present one.

She said villagers used to control the worms by digging trapping channels around the mahangu fields and by handpicking and burning the worms and it worked.

Some villagers claim to have reported the matter to their councillors.

Josua Antonio another agricultural technician said an assessment of the situation was due to be carried out over the weekend and the ministry had sent extra vehicles to help. He said based on the findings, the ministry would make a decision on the use of pesticides.

“We are told that we will receive less harmful pesticides that only takes seven days to neutralise the worms, but again as I said, this is going to be the last resort,” said Antonio.

Source : New Era