Uganda on Alert as Fall Army Worm Spreads to Burundi

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In short
Dr Georg Goergen, an Entomologist with Biological Control Centre for Africa and International Institute of Tropical Agriculture IITA confirmed in an email that the fall army worm is already in Burundi.

Uganda is monitoring the spread of the maize crop-ravaging fall army worm now raving maize crop in southern Africa countries.

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.

Dr Georg Goergen, an Entomologist with Biological Control Centre for Africa and International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) confirmed in an email that the fall army worm is already in Burundi.

"Regarding East Africa I received samples from Burundi, Cibitoke region and can confirm its occurrence in this part of Africa," Goergen said. The samples from Burundi according to Dr. Goergen were among those his team has been analyzing to confirm whether the army worm has moved to East Africa.

The second sample could have been from Uganda but Dr.  Goergen says, he only obtained pictures taken by Josephine Okot, the founder of Victoria Seed Limited showing possible outbreaks that were causing trouble in maize fields last year.

"Because of unjustified restrictions, DHL refused to dispatch samples for identification until today. These would be crucial to obtain information about possible pathways of introduction." reads an email Dr. Georgen sent to Uganda Radio Network.

He said the fall army worm species has remarkable migratory capabilities and was able  make it to Republic of South Africa after having crossed DRC, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe for the southern African part of the continent.

Maize, Millet and grass has in the past been attacked by the native army worm species but not the fall army worm.  If confirmed here, the fall army worm would have moved over a 5000-kilometer journey in just twelve months.

Josephine Okot, the Proprietor and Managing Director Victoria Seeds Limited, in an interview confirmed invasive army worms that looked alien attacked maize crops in different past of the country during the past rain season.

She confirmed having collected samples that she wanted to send to International Institute for Tropical Agriculture but courier service providers DHL declined to dispatch.
 
// Cue In; "All the maize farms…
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But the Director of Crop Resources at the Ministry of Agriculture Okasai Opolot said in a telephone interview that he was not aware of the said outbreak. He suspects that the maize in the areas Josephine Okot visited could have been affected by the maize stalk borer.

But Josephine Okot insists the samples which she still keeps looked alien, the reason she thought they should be investigated.

The native Africa army worm's attack maize, grass and millet from outside but the fall army worm burrows into the plant and only comes out after destroying it.

Meanwhile Okasai Opolot said the government is on alert and will soon issue a statement with early warning messages to farmers.
 
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Scientists and governments under the Southern African Africa Development Community (SADC) meet next week to chat ways of stemming the spread of the worms.

Okasai says for the East African region, there is ongoing collaboration knowing that the fall army worms could easily reach respective countries.  

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 Cue Out…..so we are monitoring"///
 
He says in Uganda the government could use insecticides to spray the worms. But entomologist is involved with research efforts to find an effective pesticide to control the caterpillars say the existing chemicals being used in Africa are unlikely to succeed. In the US, genetically modified crops have been used to combat them.