Govt Confirms Fall Armyworm Outbreak Top story

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In short
The Government has finally confirmed the outbreak of the Fall Armyworm several weeks after the marching worms destroying the maize crop in most parts of the country.

The Government has finally confirmed the outbreak of the Fall Armyworm several weeks after the marching worms destroying the maize crop in most parts of the country.

Agriculture Minister Vincent Bamulangaki Sempijja has in a statement at the Uganda the Media Centre in Kampala confirmed the outbreak.

The Minister confirms earlier fears that the Armyworm outbreak will have negative impact on the nation's food, nutrition security and wealth creation efforts.

Sempijja says the outbreak of the Fall Armyworm (FAW) is as a result of climate variability the country is experiencing.

The government finally confirmed earlier reports that the fall armyworm has been here since last year. Sempijja said the Ministry during the second season of 2016 received reports about severe outbreak of 'caterpillars' on maize plants.

Josephine Okot, the Managing Director of Victoria Seeds Limited recently complained that government had ignored warnings about a strange pest raving the maize crop last year.

She had attempted to have the Fall Armyworms picked from the fields transported to foreign laboratories for testing but she was frustrated by one of the top courier companies operating in the country.

The minister says symptoms of damage include leaf perforation, defoliation, perforated cobs and damaged grains.

The outbreak of the Fall Armyworm according the Minister may have implications for key exports and foreign exchange rate.

Meanwhile, government is advising farmers during the emergency intervention to use a combination of Lambda-cyhalothrin and Thiamethoxam pyrethroids pesticides. Minister Sempijja says it will announce a list of genuine suppliers to avoid farmers being ripped off by those that have positioned themselves ready to reap from the unfortunate situation.

The government according to Sempijja has budgeted for one billion shillings $280,000 towards response to the marching worms in the districts affected.

The Minister urges farmers, extension officers and the general public to promptly report the outbreak of the Armyworm to district agriculture officers.

The fall armyworm can be identified by its Y mark on the front of the head and large spots towards the end of the abdomen.

Adult worms according to the Minister move in large swarms at night with females laying up to 2,000 eggs with potential to destroy a hectare of crops in 72 hours. He fears that the county could lose up 15% or 450,000 metric tons of maize if nothing is done to halt its spread or to contain it.

As the immediate control measures using pyrethriods take shape, the government says research is ongoing to establish long term effectiveness and robust control measures against the pests.

The fall armyworm derives the name from its ability to eat through most of the vegetation in its way as it marches through crops. Known to originate from the Americas, the worm was identified for the first time in Africa last year. It is now a major concern in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda among other countries.