Armyworms raid 342,000 hectares

Lobin Lowe

The 2020/21 rain-fed agriculture season faces the threat of reduced harvest as armyworms have attacked over 342,000 hectares of food crops—especially in the Southern Region— impacting close to 669,000 of the estimated two million smallholder farm families.

The Ministry of Agriculture has indicated that the infestation was reported in the first and second week of January, affecting a total of 320,269 hectares of maize, 18,922 hectares of sorghum and 2,841 hectares of millet.

The ministry’s spokesperson Gracian Lungu said the worms had infested almost all the districts in the country but said the most affected districts were Nsanje, Chikwawa, Neno, Mulanje, Machinga and Balaka.


He said the districts had been affected due to erratic rains they have been receiving.

“These districts have a temperature which is conducive for the survival of these fall armyworms. The ministry is also doing its best to make sure that the farmers are giving us reports in time so that they can be assisted in dealing with the pests,” Lungu said.

Lungu said, so far, about 15,700 litres of pesticides have been distributed to the affected farmers.


He also said farmers have been encouraged to be using cultural and indigenous methods of dealing with the pests while they monitor their fields frequently to detect infestation as early as possible.

Ironically, Mangochi, where fall armyworms have wreaked havoc in crop fields, is not among the six districts which the ministry has listed as the most affected.

However, Mangochi District Agriculture Development Office officials last week told The Daily Times that the pest had attacked 34 percent of the maize crop in the current farming season.

Meanwhile, Agriculture Minister Robin Lowe has indicated that ministry officials had serviced traps for fall armyworms and the African armyworm to detect infestation as early as possible.

“Currently, our frontline staff are training farmers within the EPA [Extension Planning Area] on management and control of these migratory pests, which means that, if you meet agriculture officers in your area, they will assist you,” reads a message which minister responsible, Lobin Lowe, posted on his Facebook page.

Lowe has further said 15,000 litres of pesticides had been delivered to districts while the procurement of additional 24,000 litres was underway.

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