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Fall armyworms scare

9,000 hectares of crops attacked in Thyolo

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Gracian Lungu

By Patience Lunda:

Up to 9,000 hectares of crops – out of 54,000 hectares – have been attacked by fall army worms and African army worms in Thyolo District.

Ministry of Agriculture told Malawi News Friday that it has also received reports of fall army worm infestations in Ntchisi and Kasungu districts.

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In 2017, suffered the worst attacks of fall army worms, with 150,000 hectares of maize crop reported to have been affected that time.

In an interview, Ministry of Agriculture Public Relations Officer, Gracian Lungu, advised farmers to brace for fall army worms in many districts of the country which is as a result of variations in weather patterns.

Lungu added that the ministry has already reached out to areas where the infestation rate was high and have advised the affected farmers to use integrated pest management systems to control the army worms.

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“We want the pesticides to be the last resort because pests become used to pesticides more than the traditional ways but we have made sure all ADDs have been given the chemical pesticides,” he said.

According to the ministry, all Agriculture Development Divisions (ADDs) have been provided with pesticides that can be used by farmers when the integrated pest management systems fail to work.

Commenting on the development, agriculture expert Tamani Nkhono Mvula feared that the problem of fall army worms might be extensive this year because many farmers have planted late due to late rains.

He called on the government to find lasting solutions to fall army worms — aside from the chemicals and the traditional ways of dealing with them.

“We have been talking about these pests for a very long time and there is need to find lasting solutions because they have negative implications on our agriculture,” he said.

Some of the integrated pest management systems being used in the affected areas include use of fish soup and Neem tree leaves.

Fall army worm caused extension devastation in Malawi in the 2017 farming season, invading 20 of the country’s 28 districts disaster areas following an invasion by fall armyworms.

Some of the districts that were worst in 2017 were Balaka, Rumphi, Machinga, Salima, Chikwawa, Blantyre, Chiradzulu, Mwanza, Neno, Mulanje, Phalombe and Thyolo.

Reports of fall army worm attack come hot on the heels of a December 2021 Malawi Food Security outlook report by Fewsnet which says widespread rainfall deficits at the start of the 2021-22 rainfall season are posing food insecurity threats in Malawi in mid and late 2022.

The update, released on January 4 2022, indicates that poor rainfall is expected to continue and would likely result in a below-average 2022 crop harvest.

The update further indicates that, based on revised weather forecast models and the poor start of the 2021-22 rainfall season, rains in the 2021-22 rainfall season are expected to be below average.

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