NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 9 – Twenty eight African countries have been affected by Fall Army Worms (FAW), compared with 17 in April 2017, according to a report by the Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International (CABI).
The pest which was first reported in Africa in 2016 now presents a permanent agricultural challenge for the continent as FAW feeds on more than 80 crops, with preference for maize and can as well cut yields by up to 60 per cent.
Kenya’s bread basket in the Rift Valley was among the regions affected as well as Taita-Taveta, Kwale in the Coast and Western regions of Kakamega and Bungoma counties with the Ministry of Agriculture laying down structures for the prevention, control and eradication of the fall army worm.
The report states that the pest will cost 10 of the continent’s major maize producing economies in Africa a total of $2.2bn to $5.5bn a year in lost maize harvests, if the pest is not properly managed.
“Enabling our agricultural communities with quick and coordinated responses is now essential, to ensure the continent stays ahead of the plague,” said Dr Joseph DeVries, Vice President – Program Development and Innovation at AGRA.
The report also indicates the importance of research is urgently needed, and a huge awareness and education effort is required so that farmers monitor their fields, and can make decisions on whether and how to control.
“There are natural ways farmers can reduce impact, including squashing the eggs or caterpillars when they see them, and maintaining crop diversity in the farm, which encourages natural predators,” said Dr Roger Day, CABI’s Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Coordinator.
As countries turn to pesticides to reduce the damage, farmers face the risk of the pest developing resistance to treatment, which has become a widespread problem in the Americas.
Biopesticides are a lower risk control option, but few of the biopesticides used in the Americas are yet to be approved for use in Africa, raising the need for urgent local trials, registration and the development of local production.
Some of the suggested management options of FAW by the Ministry of Agriculture includes strengthening national and county capacity in surveillance, diagnostic skills and management of fall army worm by training public private extension service providers, seed inspectors, agrochemical dealers, spraying teams, researchers, farmers and the general public which is critical to fast track adoption of strategies to mitigate against the threat of this new migratory pest.
The Fall Army Worm originates from North and South America and is usually dispersed by wind and burrows in maize stems and cobs making it extremely difficult to be detected and can destroy thousands of hectares within days.`