- CABI Chief Scientist call for urgent response to protect farmer’s interest
Crop destroying caterpillars- Army worms are now spreading rapidly across Africa, threatening Agricultural trade.
The caterpillar destroys young maize plants, attacking their growing points and burrowing into the cobs.
In a research published by the Britain-based Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International (CABI) the pest, which had not previously been established outside the Americas, is now expected to spread to the limits of suitable African habitat within a few years.
The CABI research also found evidence of two species of fall armyworm in Ghana for the first time and scientists are now working to understand how it got there, how it spreads, and how farmers can control it in an environmentally friendly way.
CABI’s Chief scientist, Matthew Cock, informed that this is the first time it has been shown that both species are established on mainland Africa.
“It likely travelled to Africa as adults or egg masses on direct commercial flights and has since been spread within Africa by its own strong flight ability and carried as a contaminant on crop produce. Following earlier reports from Nigeria, Togo and Benin, this shows they are clearly spreading very rapidly”, he explained.
Earlier this month, Reuters reported that a plague of suspected armyworms destroyed 2000 hectares of crop fields in Malawi and was spreading at alarming rates. These outbreaks can cause devastating losses and have resulted in a mounting debt crisis amongst many farmers in affected areas.
While armyworm mainly affects maize, reports also indicate that it eats more than 100 plant species, causing major damage to crops such as rice and sugarcane as well as cabbage, soybeans, onion, pasture grasses, millet, tomato, potato and cotton.
Cock warned that outbreaks can cause devastating losses and mounting debts for farmers and said urgent action is now needed to help farmers figure out the best strategies to control the pest.
“This invasive species is now a serious pest spreading quickly in tropical Africa and with the potential to spread to Asia. Urgent action will be needed to prevent devastating loses to crops and farmers’ livelihoods” he said.