Unidentified worms attack Etunda

Etunda-The Etunda Irrigation Project, still reeling from a devastating attack by American bollworms, is now trying to battle an attack by unidentified worm species that are neither American bollworms nor Armyworms.

American bollworms have already caused extensive crop damage at the Etunda irrigation project in the Omusati region, and farmers are concerned the worm invasion will badly affect this year's harvest.

Agriculturalists who spoke to New Era said these worms were very different from the American bollworms and Armyworms that had already caused harm to the irrigation project.

They did not want their names published, because only the official spokespersons of the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry has authorisation to give information concerning the new unidentified worm species.

"We are seeing the worms for the very first time and we don't know their name. That is why we are waiting for the arrival of the experts to identify it," said one of the agriculturalists at Etunda Irrigation Project.

They could not disclose more information to the media until the team on its way to Etunda to conduct more investigation arrives.

The team consists of a manager from the Agro-Marketing and Trade Agency (AMTA) and (Agribusdev) Agricultural Business Development Agency.

The worms, which only feed on the leaves of sweet potatoes and small branches of the same crop, have destroyed 0.3 hectares of medium-scale farmer Andreas Kaanyena's fields in two days.

The worms, first discovered last week Friday, allegedly attack the crop as a group and consume all the leaves - meaning the plant will eventually die.

"We started planting on Thursday and we finished on Friday. On the same day, they started eating small pieces, and when we came on Saturday morning, we saw they had already destroyed all the rows. If you see from here, there are no leaves, only branches," Kaanyena said.

The worms, which come in four different colours even though they are the same type, were flocking into the field in search of more food when our news team visited Etunda on Monday.

The worms are huge and look very much like caterpillars, but crawl very fast and eat very fast.

Kaanyena, who has been farming at Etunda for the past four years, has only now seen the active and fast worms with green, brown, black and cream colours for the first time ever.

He says he chose to plant sweet potatoes hoping to generate income after African armyworms and American bollworms attacked and destroyed many hectares of maize at the same project, leaving them with nothing to harvest.

Although farmers tried their best to spray the worm with the Cyperfos chemical it did not kill the worms, but only paralysed them for a while.

After a while, they became active again and continued causing more damage to crops.

Medium scale farmers are highly dependent on crop production, whereby they produce and sell their produce to generate income and pay service providers.

Kaanyena is worried about how he will manage to settle his debt for water, fertilisers and seeds because the worms have destroyed their crop.

He said this year's drought would make it hard for him to put food on the table for his family, as crop production is their only means of survival.

He does not think it will be possible to earn any income because the plague of three different worms at the project has massively affected the yield from their fields.

Kaanyena called on the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry to come to their rescue as the worm infestation had finally dashed their last hope of survival.

Source: New Era Newspaper Namibia