THE fall armyworm was identified in Africa in 2016 and has made three horrible entrances in Zambia with devastating outcomes on farming communities.
It would however appear that the armyworm infestation will for some time to come continue to shatter the livelihood of many Zambian farmers through crop damage.
In early 2017, armyworms devoured large tracks of maize crops across Southern Africa, including Zambia.
It is thought that the vicious insects reached this side of the world as a bellicose species from the Americas as eggs in imported produce.
Unfortunately it seems currently that there is no panacea to this destructive garden pest that gets its name because it travels in small insect armies and consumes just about everything in its path.
From 2017, the insects have continued to make their presence known and felt in Zambia and the situation is almost forlorn.
Recently there have been reports of armyworm attacks in several parts of Zambia and these seem to be growing by the day.
The Sun on Monday reported that Solwezi district is the most recent victim of armyworm invasion.
North Western provincial minister Nathaniel Mubukwanu confirmed that the district was under fierce attack from armyworms which are destroying crops from fields.
Mr Mubukwanu said the invasion was in its third year in the district’s farming seasons.
During a field visit to Kamitonte Sub-Chief Mutumba Kayamba’s field, Mr Mubukwanu told the provincial agriculture coordinator officer (PACO) Derrick Simukanzye that there was need for the ever attacking worms to be fought.
“Our province is fortunate enough because we don’t experience high drought conditions, our fields are beautifully blooming but the manifestation and attack of the worm is a reminder to ourselves as Government and farmers that army worms are becoming part of our farming seasons.
“Our food security levels as a country could be affected because our province is the food basket therefore adequate information to our farmers on how they can sustain themselves towards this infestations so they can educate their children because it is a business venture too was important”, he added.
The minister said research on how the manifestation and securing of unaffected crop once and for all and put an end to the attacks was needed adding that planning ahead after all the experiences would be the way forward.
He further urged PACO to consider finding other inter crops that would make the worm uncomfortable instead of only depending on pesticides.
Senior field crop officer Shadrick Mubanga said that the crop at the it’s lava stage was receiving nimacidine pesticide spray which was acting as a repellent and that when the aroma spread around the field it would avoid hatching.
He said the infestation rate which was at four percent has had a chemical that was an environmentally friendly bio pesticide given to every farmer that reported the attack.
“The measures put in place are that all the given input seed were treated and , farmers also took to putting charcoal ash or soil in the crop core to avoid the manifestation and also maize is the preferred home so a variety of crops grown has the insect uncomfortable to stay,” he said.
Farmers present at the visit thanked government for the early delivery of the inputs and later bid to help fellow farmers that faced the manifestation of the army worms.
It is easy to guess that armyworm control in Zambia will not be a laidback undertaking and is almost too intricate to accomplish.
Experts say if you don’t suffer army worm outbreaks, we should thank its natural predators that include birds, insects, and other larvae predators.
On the other hand if pest numbers are high, it suggests these natural hunters have been done in by the very pesticides applied to kill the army worms.
The absence of predators gives the re-generating pest a decided advantage in our maize field and so, to manage armyworms farmers among other things should avoid using harmful pesticides or practices that would inadvertently destroy beneficial insects, the first line of natural defence.