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News: Armyworms devour more than 3,000 ha crop in Ethiopia’s Southwest State

Tazelekew Habtamu, a maize farmer in southern Ethiopia where the insect set foot for the first time in Ethiopia in Feb 2017, shows the pest infestation on his maize farm in the first week of March 2017. Picture: FAO/Archive

Addis Abeba – Influx of Armyworm migrants devoured more than 3,000 hectares of crops in Ethiopia’s Southwest Regional State, Masresha Belachew, the region’s deputy president and head of the bureau of agriculture told state media.

The influx of Armyworm has so far caused severe damages on 3,363 hectares of land in four zones of the state: Bench Sheko, West Omo, Konta and Dawro Zones; of these zones, the damage in Bench Sheko zone is severe, Masresha said.

The news did not specify if the variety is the fall armyworm (FAW), known by its scientific name “Spodoptera frugiperda.” However, a separate statement from the Southwest Regional State Communication Bureau said the pests were “African Armyworm”

Using available chemical supply, the region has started spraying the areas affected by the armyworm to prevent further damages; furthermore experts were visiting the areas and were exerting efforts to control the spread of the disease. Previously, experts from the federal ministry of agriculture had come to visit the areas following information exchanges between the regional state and the Ministry.

The news did not specify if the variety is the fall armyworm (FAW), known by its scientific name “Spodoptera frugiperda.” However, a separate statement from the Southwest Regional State Communication Bureau said the pests were “African Armyworm,” and said it has damaged crops planted on more than 500 hectare land.

FAW was “first reported on the African continent in early 2016.” The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Ethiopia office said in 2017 that, after it first appeared in the last week of February 2017, the disease had infested “approximately a quarter of the 2.6 million hectares of land planted with maize.”

“The fall armyworm, which first arrived in Africa in 2016, was intercepted on a few hectares of irrigated maize fields in southern Ethiopia in the last week of February 2017. It has now covered about 52 962 hectares in 144 districts in three of the major maize-growing regional states – Gambella, Oromia and Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples’ Region (SNNPR),” FAO said at the time.

The Government had set up a National Technical Advisory Committee on FAW (FAW TAC) in early 2018 which includes government stakeholders such as the Ministry of Agriculture and the National Agricultural Research Council (NARC); agriculture universities, and donors such as FAO and the USAID, according to the UN.

Masresha Belachew told state media that the pests were “inherently different” from previous immigrants and were spreading fast; it “could not be picked up by hand.” However, prevention and control activities were being carried out all the way to the lower zonal structures to prevent the spread and damage beyond the specified zones. He called on the community to work hard to control and prevent the influx of new pests to new areas and in order to protect the next crop season.

The Ministry of Agriculture has not released a statement as of the writing of this news. AS

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