African armyworm ravages crops 

Source: African armyworm ravages crops | The Herald 31 DEC, 2019

African armyworm ravages crops

Elita Chikwati and Maxwell Tapatapa
The prospect of low yields from the 2019-2020 summer cropping season due to prolonged dry spells has been increased by reports of an outbreak of the African armyworm in some parts of the country.

Over 570 hectares of maize and sorghum have been destroyed by armyworm in Mbire District, Mashonaland Central, between December 20 and 26.

Estimated crop damage ranges from 15 percent to 20 percent in Wards 12 to 17 of Mbire.

The African armyworm and the fall armyworm belong to the same family.

Its sudden appearance and extensive damage caused within a short space of time, as well as its rapid spread, calls for efficient early warning systems and information sharing.

African armyworm outbreaks tend to be devastating for farmland and pastures, with the highest-density outbreaks occurring during the rainy season after periods of prolonged drought.

The Department of the Plant Quarantine and Plant Protection Services Institute (PQPPSI) under the Department of Research and Specialist Services has since availed 200kg of chemicals to Mbire’s affected areas.

PQPPSI entomologist, Mr Shingirai Nyamutukwa yesterday said 387 hectares of sorghum and 192 hectares of maize were affected by African armyworm in the same district.

“Affected wards include Ward 12 and Ward 16 and 17 of Mbire.

“Estimated crop damage range from 15 percent to 20 percent from wards 12 to 17 respectively.

“Spraying against the pest using Carbaryl 85 Wettable Powder was done. The pest is under control in most areas through chemical sprays in all parts of affected areas,” he said.

Mr Nyamutukwa said farmer awareness and sensitisation on African armyworm was being shared through various means including the mass media.

Agronomist Mr Ivan Craig urged farmers to monitor crops against pests during this dry spell.

“If you look at the pests you find this time of the year where it is actually dry and hot, you find that we usually experience the stalk borer and the fall armyworm and sometimes the African armyworm itself.

“It is highly recommended that we keep some pesticides in the form of Carbaryl and other green label pesticides to make sure we spray the pests as we identify them,” he said.

Farmers have been encouraged to report to Agriculture Extension officers when they see an outbreak of anything, especially in the caterpillar category.

Seed Co head of agronomy (Zimbabwe) Ms Wendy Madzura said insect pest control was a critical element in increasing productivity.

“Insect pests have the potential to greatly reduce the surface area of the crop, which then reduces photosynthesis resulting in reduced yields.

“One important thing to bear in mind is that effective insect pest control is characterised by correct and timely identification,” she said.