SA braces for possible massive fall armyworm invasion


SA braces for possible massive fall armyworm invasion

Kgaugelo Masweneng | 2017-01-26 17:46:25.0

Army worm larva. File photo.

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South Africa should brace itself for a potential massive invasion of fall armyworms.

Outbreaks were first reported in west and central Africa at the start of 2016. They’ve since jumped the equator into Burundi‚ Zambia‚ Zimbabwe and Malawi and have already spread to some of the northern areas of South Africa.

Crop Life South Africa says we should be worried about an invasion of the fall armyworm across the country‚ mainly in Limpopo‚ the Free State‚ and Western Cape sandveld – even though this particular species of armyworm is not yet confirmed by genetic analysis.

Dr Gerhard H Verdoorn‚ director at Griffon Poison Information Centre (Crop Life SA)‚ confirmed the devastating effect this invasion could have on the country’s food security

“Farms in Levubu‚ Pontdrif and Mookgopong in Limpopo are confirmed to have been hit by the fall armyworm invasion. This is a crisis for all SA maize growers. We were caught unaware by this pest but we have a very strong presence of extension services. If left uncontrolled it can have a devastating effect on the maize crop and cripple the harvest‚” Verdoorn said.

“We are advising farmers to use certain pesticides immediately‚ to scout for second infestations and report any such infestations. We are devising plans to seek emergency registration for pesticides that are not yet registered for maize/army worm‚ drafting plans to incorporate biological pesticides into management plans and drafting a long-term integrated pest management plan for this pest. In other African countries they rely heavily on SA’s support with info and advice‚” he added.

This pest also has a very large host range and although it was only observed on maize in South Africa‚ it could travel on propagation material or other plant products of other hosts from one country to another.

Verdoorn says the armyworm moves with passage winds and weather fronts and also migrates through host plants. Main transmission and migration is wind and weather fronts. They can move thousands of kilometres per week. They are already resistant to pyrethroid insecticides and to a lesser extent to organophosphates and carbamates also. Other pesticides do seem to kill the larvae but only when they are exposed and not when they have entered the cobs.

The Department of Agriculture‚ Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) confirmed the reports on the armyworms.

“We did receive reports of pest damage which does raise a concern. However the damage over the broader area has not been assessed yet.”

“The biggest danger is incorrect information on farm management of the pest which can lead to pesticide resistance and production losses. Production losses will ultimately lead to food security issues. Small scale and other resource farmers are especially at risk” said DAFF spokesperson Bomikazi Molapo.

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