Fall Armyworm warning issued in Zambezi

WINDHOEK - The Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry (MAWF) informs farmers and the general public about the Outbreak of Fall Armyworms (FAW) (Spodoptera frugiperda) in the Zambezi Region.

The Fall Armyworms were reported on February 14 in areas such as Sacona, Kongola, Ngoma, Bukalo, Kasheshe and Musanga. Following the reports, the MAWF undertook assessment missions in the affected areas on February 18 and 19, which confirmed that over 100ha of farmland are adversely affected by the worms. The crops in these areas are at different growth stages, from vegetative to flowering stages which is highly susceptible to FAW. Fall Armyworm is a pervasive agricultural pest, native to South and Central America that ruthlessly worked its way across the African continent, after arriving in West Africa (Nigeria), in 2016 and making its way to South of the Sahara and into Namibia in the 2016/2017 cropping season. The FAW has spread quickly due to its short reproductive cycle and ability to travel long distance quickly during its adult (moth) stage.

The FAW's lifespan from egg to larva to moth lasts from one to three months. It is during the larvae stage that it creates the most crop damage. Controlling FAW is a challenge because it reproduces fast and in larger numbers and can migrate long distances, hides within the growing leaves and is also resistant to several pesticides. The speed with which the FAW spreads is due to few factors:

Female FAW produce huge number of eggs (between 50-200 eggs per batch) and can have up to 10 batches within her lifespan.

The Moth can be carried by wind across vast distances; some can spread up to 1 000km.

The numbers of FAW are not reduced by natural enemies, thus it can multiply uninhibited.

In Namibia, FAW poses a significant threat to smallholder crop farmers, mainly maize farmers and has become a threat to food security. In 2016/2017 cropping season, approximately 50 000 hectares of maize and millet were estimated to have been damaged by the pest which adversely affected 27 000 households.

FAW is one of the most difficult pests to control in maize fields. It causes serious leaf feed damage as well as injury to the ear, but can still damage plants in nearly all stages of development:

Avoid late planting.

Avoid staggering planting (Plots of different stages).

Increase plant diversity- lntercrop maize with other crop.

MONITOR

Visit and walk through the fields at least once in a week or twice a week when FAW populations are high.

Look for egg masses and larvae.

Look for FAW natural enemies-ants earwigs, small wasps, mummified (fungi) or liquefied (virus,) larvae.

Look for FAW damage on leaves-inspect 25 plants and count how many have new damage (this will determine the percentage of plants infested in the field).

Source: New Era Newspaper Namibia