Suspected Fall Armyworms Ravage Maize Gardens in Luweero

3112 Views Luweero, Uganda

In short
The discovery raises fear among farming communities following reports that the worms have razed gardens in areas where they were first reported adding to the devastation caused by a prolonged dry spell and severe drought, caused by the El Nino weather pattern in 2015-2016.

Maize gardens in Luweero district have been attacked by caterpillars suspected to be the intrepid fall army-worms. The caterpillars have been reported in Kikyusa and Zirobwe sub counties.

The discovery raises fear among farming communities following reports that the worms have razed gardens in areas where they were first reported adding to the devastation caused by a prolonged dry spell and severe drought, caused by the El Nino weather pattern in 2015-2016.

Its presence was already confirmed in Kenya with scientists from the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) warning of a significant risk of spreading into other eastern Africa countries due to similar planting seasons.

Shaban Kakande, a farmer at Lwamula Village in Kikyusa Sub County says that the caterpillars eat the leaves and the funnels (growing tip) of the maize plant leading to its total destruction.

Kakande explains he has lost over 10-acres of maize to caterpillars a few weeks after it sprout from the ground. He adds that they have tried to spray various types of insecticide against the caterpillars but they seem resistant and advancing to other crops.

Ronald Senfuka, another farmer says that some farmers resort to spray high volumes of insecticides to kill the caterpillars but they ended up killing the maize due to the overdose.
 
Cue in: "kasooli obuzibu….
Cue out;…mu kasooli"//
 
Another affected farmer Margaret Nabuuso has also lost over one acre of maize to the caterpillars. Nabuuso says that they are facing fresh food insecurity because they thought maize would grow fast during the current rains and help them recover from effects of the 2016 dry spell.

The farmers have petitioned Luweero District Agriculture Office and Ministry of Agriculture for possible intervention to salvage the situation.

Luweero District Production Officer Sarah Namubiru says that samples of the caterpillars have been sent to experts in the Ministry of Agriculture for investigation on possible outbreak of fall army worms in the area. She also ruled the possible attack by maize stalk borers saying alien caterpillars are more dangerous and resistant to insecticide.
 
// Cue in: "there is a pest….
 
Cue out;…intensifying"//
 
Cue in: "kati ekizibu ekirala…
Cue out;…tukalwanyisiza wamu"//
 
The fall army worms are caterpillars that march across the landscape in large groups feasting on young plants, leaving devastation in the fields. Latest information suggests the worm, originally from South America, has spread to Burundi in East Africa.

The pest can cause crop losses of up to 73 percent and once it is at an advanced larval development stage can become difficult to control with pesticides.

They were first reported on the African continent in Nigeria. It subsequently appeared across parts of West and Central Africa, before extensively invading farmers' fields in southern Africa in December 2016, a report by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) shows.

The UN food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) says that following the spread, Zambia, another African country in the Sub Saharan region, lost more than 90,000 hectares of maize to the pests. Malawi lost 17,000 hectares, Zimbabwe reported a potential 130,000 hectares affected, while in Namibia, approximately 50,000 hectares of maize and millet were damaged, according to the

However, research shows that fall army-worm infestations have been reduced by 20 to 30 percent on maize inter-cropped with beans compared to maize alone.

 

About the author

Brian Luwaga
Since Brian Luwaga joined Uganda Radio Network in 2011, he is still amazed how, "URN is a place that gives journalists a chance to enhance their skills . It gives a journalist an opportunity to adopt and master various aspects of journalism that include radio broadcast, social media, photography and television production."

A practicing journalist since 2009, first with Star FM, Luwaga has always been keen to write about the concerns of the "common person." Based for much of his career in Luweero, Luwaga takes it as a compliment if politicians complain that his reporting is too harsh.

In his journalism, Luwaga likes to merge the past with the present. He believes you cannot understand what is happening now, if you do not have a grounding in the past. Brian Luwaga is the Luweero URN bureau chief. Nakasongola, Nakaseke, Mityana, Mubende and Wakiso districts fall under his docket.

Luwaga is interested in humanitarian work and is a keen Rotarian.