Agriculture Experts in Zambia Over Fall Armyworm Outbreak


In short
The experts from the Crop Protection Directorate expect to learn from Zambia how to control the spread of the fall armyworm now said to have invaded over twenty districts across the country.

Ministry of Agriculture officials are in Zambia to study the control of the deadly fall army worm following its reported outbreak in Uganda.

Sources at the Ministry indicate that officials from the Ministry's Crop Protection Department traveled to Zambia following reports that the deadly maize worms have spread to twenty districts mainly in South-Western Uganda.

Zambia's maize crop was severely damaged by the fall army worms that hit the country from December 2016. Zambian authorities took drastic measures to halt the march of the army worm, which gets its name from the large, army-like groups it forms when on the move. The country's army used war planes to spray affected areas with pesticides.

Stephen Tibejuka Byantwale, the Assistant Commissioner in charge of crop tests and diseases confirmed in a telephone interview that he was in Zambia. He could not however divulge details of the trip.

Reports that the fall army worm has already spread to twenty districts across the country bring to question Agriculture Ministry's capacity in pest surveillance and monitoring.

Farmers in some districts had by September 2016 noticed that a strange pest was munching through their maize crops.  The voracious caterpillars, known as fall army worms, had nestled in the stems destroying the crops but the pests went unnoticed by the government system.

Okasai Opolot, the Director For Crop Production at the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industries and Fisheries (MAAIF) could not be reached on his mobile.  He previously told Uganda Radio Network that Uganda would spray the fall army worm in case there was an outbreak.

Josephine Okot, the founder and Managing Director Victoria Seeds Limited was the first to sound an alarm bell about the strange pest fall army worm.
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Okot in an interview two weeks ago expressed concern that the Ministry of agriculture seemed to pay little attention to crop protection especially pest management. 
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A source at National Crop Resources Institute (NaCRRI) who asked for anonymity said they originally thought it was the native African army worm.

The Source who, an epidemiologists at the National Crop Resources Institute, says there is need for more surveillance much as such outbreaks cannot be easily stopped. He says early detection of the pests would ensure early response to scale down likely damage.