Kampala- The Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries has confirmed that the fall armyworm, a new pest that attacks plants, has now invaded more than 20 districts across the country.
The fall armyworm could cost Uganda unto 450,000 metric tonnes of maize annually, the ministry said.
While addressing journalists at the media centre on Friday, Agriculture Minister Vincent Ssempijja said the deadly pest is hard to control and the ministry predicts serious negative impact on the economy.
He said the most affected crops are maize and sugarcane, advising farmers to be vigilant and report the pest attack to authorities as soon as noticed.
Uganda produces close to four million tonnes of maize grain annually and the crop also contributes to the livelihoods of more than 3.6 million households.
The pest was first detected in the three districts of Kayunga, Kasese and Bukedea last year, but according to the minister, the pest has now spread to other districts, including Luweero, Mukono, Kamuli, Kibaale, Kamwenge, Masindi, Nwoya, Mayuge, Kyenjojo, Rakai, Kabarole, Kumi, Serere, Buliisa, Luuka, Kiryandongo, Bugiri and Iganga.
Mr Ssempijja explained that the government has set aside Shs1 billion to control the pest, asserting that they have also formed a task force from different stake holders to develop action plans for effective management of the pest in the short and long run.
“A technical committee comprising National Agricultural Research Organisation (Naro) and Ministry of Health staff are already in place to guide on implementation of pest outbreak management and they are going to continue advocating and lobbing for financial support,” Mr Ssempijja said.
He, however, indicates that as an emergency intervention, farmers should use a pesticide combination of Lambda-cyhalothrin [106g/1] and thiamethoxam [140g/1], [ Striker 247 SC or Engeo K 247 SC and Profenofos 40 per cent + Cypermethrine 4 per cent at a rate of 20-50Mls in 15-20 litres of water as the ministry explores more sustainable management measure.
He said the ministry is set to educate farmers on how to effectively mix the formulas, starting tomorrow.
The fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) is part of the order of Lepidoptera and is the larval life stage of a fall armyworm moth. The pest is known to feed on more than 80 plant species, including millet, sorghum, sugarcane, rice, wheat, legumes like cow peas, groundnuts and soy beans, cotton and many pasture grasses that are sources of cattle feeds in the country.