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Mealy bugs attack crops in Machinga

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Mealy bug attack in some parts of Machinga Agriculture Development Division (ADD) threatens to reduce crop production if government does not act promptly.

Farmers have since expressed dissatisfaction with government’s inaction over the matter that has resurfaced after they decimated crops last growing season in the same area.

One of the farmers, Namidia Jailosi, of Makawa Village in Liwonde said the mealy bugs have attacked blue gum trees, therere as well as cassava and other crops in the area.

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He appealed to the government to help people in area arrest the situation.

“Last year, the attack came at the end of the growing season so we were able to get something. But it is different this year because the bugs have come at onset of the rain season,” Jailos said.

Another farmer, Richard Makawa, said the problem has already been reported to government through agriculture extension workers and that villagers were now waiting for government’s intervention on the matter.

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Contacted for a comment, Secretary for Agriculture, Erica Maganga, said she was not aware about the mealy bug attack in Machinga.

“I know of mealy bugs in Zomba and not Machinga. What I have been told is that there is cassava mosaic in the area you have mentioned but not mealy bug,” said Maganga.

She then asked for phone numbers of some of the farmers that have had their crops attacked by the mealy bug.

Getting rid of mealy bugs
Mealy bugs are soft-bodied, wingless insects that often appear as white cottony masses on the leaves, stems and fruit of plants.

They attack garden as well as ornamentals and houseplants, especially vegetables and fruits.

To control them, prune out light infestations or dab insects with a Q-tip dipped in rubbing alcohol.

Do not over water or over-fertilise — mealy bugs are attracted to plants with high nitrogen levels and soft growth. Commercially available beneficial insects, such as ladybugs, lacewing and the Mealy bug Destroyer (Cryptolaemus montrouzieri), are important natural predators of this pest.

Use the Bug Blaster to hose off plants with a strong stream of water and reduce pest numbers. Washing foliage regularly with a leaf shine — made from neem oil — will help discourage future infestations.

Insecticidal soap contains potassium salts of fatty acids, which penetrates and damages the outer shells of soft-bodied insect pests, causing dehydration and death within hours.

If pest levels become intolerable, spot treat with a short-lived, natural pesticide that does NOT persist in the environment.

Washing foliage regularly with a leaf shine will help discourage future infestations.

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