Pest Management: Demonstration of control measures against fall army worm
Fall Armyworms in Zambia
Fall armyworms (Spodoptera frugiperda) is a pest native to tropical and subtropical regions of America. In 2016, it was reported for the first time in Africa and particularly Zambia. Its devastating effect was first seen in 2017. About 2.7 million farming households in Zambia grow maize and this accounts for about 55% of the total area of annual crops. During the 2016 / 2017 farming season, the country’s crop was affected by an unprecedented invasion of FAW and caused crop damage of 250,000 hectares and yield loss of 25% country wide. The pest has since continued to evolve and spread within the African continent and Asia. Yield loss for maize crop for Zambia for the 2018/2019 season stood at 40%.
The FAW is capable of feeding on more than 80 different crop species but has a preference for cereals such as maize, wheat, sorghum and rice. The larvae feeds on leaves creating pinholes and openings in leaf tissues resulting in tattered appearances. It is considered a devastating pest because of its adverse effect on maize which is a staple food for most Sub Saharan African countries. It presents a serious threat to food and income security.
The FAW has four life stages namely egg, larvae, pupal and adult (moth). Females lay eggs in clusters of fifty to hundreds and can lay up to 1000 eggs in a lifetime. The larvae period is usually 14-22 days and is considered the damaging phase. Adult moths can fly long distance of over 50kms per night and approximately 2000kms per lifetime. The pest has 6-12 generations per season.
Since the pest was sighted in Zambia, farmers are still heavily reliant on conventional pesticides for control measures. There are huge research gaps in discovering sustainable control methods. Research efforts ought to be directed at rearing and mass production of natural enemies such as parasitoid wasps which have yielded positive results in other parts of the world such as North America.
Martin Richenhagen Future Farm – Zambia
Tackling FAW at farm level and averting yield loss requires knowledge that addresses other crop production risks. The Future Farm in Zambia has embarked on a pest management demonstration for the 2020/2021 farming season targeting FAW and the benefits of using low risk control measures such as pheromone traps and plant/bacteria based products.