Experts tip farmers on how to fight armyworms | Monitor

2022-04-19 09:42:46 By : Mr. Owen Wang

Mr Aggrey Mirembe, the Busia District senior agricultural officer, examines crops destroyed by the African armyworm in Bulumbi Village, Namungodi Town Council, Busia District at the weekend. PHOTO / DAVID AWORI.  

Authorities and agricultural experts have suggested solutions on how to eliminate African fall armyworms, which have ravaged farmers’ gardens and destroyed crops in at least 25 districts.

The fall armyworm is a moth that causes devastating damage to almost 100 plant species, including sorghum, rice, wheat, sugarcane and horticulture, threatening food and nutritional security, trade and family incomes. It was first detected in Uganda in 2016.

On Tuesday, Daily Monitor reported that the army worms had swept gardens in at least nine districts in the eastern region over the past week, and destroyed more than 10,000 acres of cereals, mostly maize, sorghum and maize.

Dr Stephen Byatwale, the commissioner in-charge of crop protection department, also the acting director of crop resources at the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industries and Fisheries, at first confirmed the invasion of the African armyworm in the districts of Busia, Tororo, Pallisa, Kumi, Soroti, Bukedea, Lira, Iganga, Bugweri, and Wakiso.

But by Wednesday, the crop-destroying caterpillars had sprung to several other districts; including; Iganga, Namutumba, Kamuli, Kasese, Mbarara, Masindi, Kiryandongo, Isingiro, Ngora, Lyantonde, Arua, Apac, Budaka and Mbale, among others.

READ: Fall armyworms invade over 20 districts

Agriculturalists, however, explain that there are a number of both scientific and rudimentary practices for farmers to adhere to in a bid to control the pest infestation.

The Kamuli district production officer, Mr Richard Musenero, articulates that farmers shouldn’t be surprised by the invasions that are always expected at the onset of rains, and are controllable.

He advises farmers to fight the armyworms by spraying pesticides such as Rocket, or locally use ash.

“Farmers will always want to look to the government [for solutions] and in doing so, there is a delay that leaves their crops destroyed,” he warns.

Mr Abner Botiri, an agricultural officer in Budaka District, suggests spraying crops using recommended chemicals such as profenofos [Rocket], Lambda Cyhalothrin [Jackpot/King code] and cypermethrin, popularly known as ambush.

“Spraying must be done early in the morning between 7am and 8am, and late in the evening between 5pm and 6pm, or at night when the worm is out to feed,” he says, adding that the armyworm is a serious challenge to farmers who depend on agriculture for a livelihood.

The African armyworm is a migratory moth, whose larvae stage is pest, which causes a lot of losses to cereals.

The pests usually move in large numbers, attacking field-after-field, with invasions mostly common on the onset of the wet season.

The prolonged dry spells, which are followed by early season rains, provide conducive ground for the moth to lay and hatch eggs, which develop into larvae and feed on the growing grass and crops planted at the onset of the rains.

The worst outbreak of the armyworm was reported in neighbouring Kenya and Tanzania in 2001, where at least 157,000 hectares of cereals were destroyed.

The district agriculture officers for Kabale and Kisoro districts, Mr Deus Bagambana, and Mr Solomon Basaaza, respectively, say the use of agrochemicals is the best and most-effective intervention in fighting the armyworms.

Mr Basaaza, just like Mr Musenero, says during rainy seasons, the armyworms are naturally destroyed because they cannot afford to survive in such a cold environment.

Mr Job Byaruhanga, the Masindi district agricultural officer, says they are doing an assessment of the situation, whose findings will be presented to the Ministry of Agriculture.

He, however, adds that the district does not have any pesticides to give to the farmers.

“We have not kept any pesticides in our store, but we are simply collecting data, which we shall send to the Ministry of Agriculture requesting for pesticides,” he says.

Mr Moses Amanyire, the Mbarara City production officer, who cites armyworm attacks in Nyakayojo and Biharwe wards, says they are advising farmers to use the available pesticides, while putting into consideration environmental and health-related issues in the long run.

In Nwoya District, the agricultural department has launched a sensitisation drive to prepare farmers for a likely invasion. Already, caterpillars have devastated hundreds of acres in the neighboring Kiryandongo District.

In Iganga, the district production officer, Dr Moses Baligeya, says almost all sub-counties have been affected by the armyworms, and as a department, they have communicated to the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, who have promised to send agrochemicals and pumps to fight them.

In the central region, Dr Ronald Bameka, the Lyantonde District veterinary officer, says: “As we wait for the experts to come, we have tasked farmers to avoid collecting too much dust around their homes and gardens where these worms could hide.”

ALSO READ: Concern as armyworms wreak havoc in east

He adds that the destructive worms have so far spread to five sub-counties of Kaliro, Kashagama, Mpumudde, Kinuuka and Lyakajura.

Mr Charles Kamugisha, the chairperson of Lwemitunga Village, Kaliro Sub-county, Lyantonde district, says the long-tailed worms have already eaten pasture for their cattle, wondering how their animals will survive yet the area is still experiencing a dry spell.

In Mpigi, the district production officer, Mr Patrick Serwadda, says although the worms have not been sighted in gardens around the district, they are sensitising farmers on how to fight them.

He explains: “This is not the first time caterpillars are invading gardens, although this appears to be a different type. We have advised our farmers to, upon sight, spray them with Cypermethrin 5EC.”

Mr Sowedi Sserwadda, the chairperson of Kibinge Coffee Farmers’ Association, says some farmers have tried to buy pesticides to spray the worms, but the pesticides are expensive.

“The caterpillars are not only eating coffee leaves, but are targeting all green leaves, which makes the task of spraying them more difficult and expensive.”

Elsewhere, the armyworms have affected Mutunda Sub-county in Kiryandongo District and Kiruli sub-county in Masindi District.

Mr Edward Baguma Aguuda from Kiruli Sub-county, says the most-affected crops include maize, which has left the majority of large-scale commercialised farmers distressed.

Mr Gerald Muhumuza, a farmer in Masindi District, says close to 10 acres of his cassava garden have been destroyed by the armyworms, hampering his projection of recouping at least Shs10m.

The Kiryandongo District production officer, Mr Isa Hassan Byenkya, has asked the Ministry of Agriculture to give assistance to farmers by providing pesticides to spray the worms.

In Teso sub-region, the fall armyworm has been sighted in areas of Ngora District.

Mr Mike Odongo, the Ngora District chairperson, says the worms have been sighted “in dozens” in the areas of Agu, Odwarat and parts of Kapir, adding that the worms have destroyed recently-planted millet, sorghum and groundnut gardens.

Mr Odongo says the armyworm have also been seen in areas of Serere District, which borders Ngora and Soroti and comes barely a month after other strange worms attacked cassava gardens in Ngora District.

How to control the worms

In 2018, during an exclusive interview with Seeds of Gold magazine in the Daily Monitor, the director of National Agricultural Research Organisation (Naro), Dr Ambrose Agona, offered solutions such as below.

• Farmers are advised to erect pheromone traps near fields to trap adult male moths.

• A pheromone is a chemical secreted by a female insect to attract males for mating and once the male insects are trapped in the bucket, there is no more possibility of mating.

• It is important to place it in one month before planting the crop. Place the trap next to the maize field so that the scent of the pheromone is carried across the tops of the plants by the wind and they should be hanged on poles.

DON'T MISS: How to combat the fall armyworm

• Farmers are advised to replace the pheromone lure every four weeks for continuous trap process and trapped insects must be removed every week. “Pheromone traps are used to catch certain species of insects and for the case of the fall armyworm, it is used to attract male worm species to the trap. Once attracted, a sticky board or catching bucket captures the insect,” Dr Agona said.

• Farmers can use telemonus remus wasps, which eat up the eggs of the fall army worm, thereby preventing its growth into a fly for possible reproduction.

• Farmers are advised to avoid using harmful pesticides or practices that would inadvertently destroy beneficial insects.

• Use of parasitoids, predators and possibly viruses and bacteria both local and exotic is a commendable method in managing the fall armyworm.

• Some bird species, especially soldier birds, are good at consuming the fall army worm, therefore, it is advisable for farmers not to scare away any bird seen in search of pests on their farms.

• Other beneficial insects such as lacewing and minute pirate bugs feed on armyworm eggs, as well as the young larvae. They help control other harmful pests, including aphids, earworms, cutworms, cabbage loopers and a variety of mite and insects.

Compiled by Philip Wafula, David Awori, Ronald Seebe, Simon Peter Emwamu, Rajab Mukombozi, Sheillar Mutetsi, Felix Ainebyoona, Ismail Bategeka, Gertrude Mutyaba, Brian A Kesiime, Mudangha Kolyangha, Fred Wambede, Felix Warom Okello, Bill Oketch, Marko Taibot, Michael Ojok & Santo Ojok.

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