Source: Armyworms invade fields – DailyNews Live 8 January 2017
HARARE – There are fears that Zimbabwe’s maize harvest could be completely
wiped out by an invasion of armyworms, so named because they eat most
vegetation in their way.
Maize is a staple crop in Zimbabwe and any threat to the harvest could
push the country further into food insecurity.
This comes as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has said up
to 4,5 million people, half of Zimbabwe’s drought-stricken rural
population, will need aid by next March.
The worms – which are actually caterpillars – are among the world’s most
destructive agricultural pests.
It is one the southern African country’s worst infestation of armyworm in
Neighbouring Zambia, which has also been affected, has been carrying out
aerial spraying against the insects.
Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development minister Joseph Made
said government has mobilised chemicals.
“So, we are on full alert on that particular aspect. Obviously, once the
outbreak is there everybody has got to play their part,” Made told a news
conference in Bulawayo.
“But the first people who play a part are the farmers and the extension
people. It is a notifiable pest and we immediately move in to control as a
country. And once we have an armyworm we must also be alert on the
locusts as well because these pests and insects are kind of interrelated.”
He said agricultural production was at serious risk if the pests – which
are currently reaching the pupa stage – were not brought under control.
“When you see the worm already grown, it is a little bit too late to
control it. It becomes a bit difficult but we must tell our farmers to
scout and there are certain traps that we have already put in order to
trap the worm in its moth form,” he said.
These moths can reproduce quickly, laying up to 1 000 eggs within a week
which grow into caterpillars within days, he said.
Creeks and rivers – which some villages rely on for drinking water – have
been polluted by the massive amount of faeces from the insects, which are
eating vital crops.
Experts from Zimbabwe’s agricultural extension service, Agritex, are
helping efforts to control the swarm, which analysts suggest may be the
result of an unusually wet rainy season this year.
The invasion began in Matabeleland North before spreading into
neighbouring areas and threatening villages across the country.
With each female laying between 500 and 1 000 eggs, the caterpillars (of
the genus Spodoptera) can devour an entire crop in a matter of days once
they reach maturity. They grow up to 5cm in length.