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Group proposes measures to manage fall army worm

By: Ama Amankwah Baafi
The fall armyworm attacks maize and feeds on a range of other crops, including millet, sorghum, rice, wheat, sugar cane and vegetables.
The fall armyworm attacks maize and feeds on a range of other crops, including millet, sorghum, rice, wheat, sugar cane and vegetables.

The Ghana National Learning Alliance (GH-NLA), a stakeholder learning platform to discuss research findings and share knowledge and information to improve agricultural productivity, has said a multi-stakeholder action is key to check the entry and spread of fall armyworm (FAW) which attacks crops.

The FAW, known to have been in the country since 2016, became very visible in 2017 when large hectares of cropped fields particularly, maize, was attacked.

The facilitator of GH-NLA, Dr Naaminong Karbo, in an interview said about six types of pathways of entry were known.

These include contaminant of a commodity, stowaway on a vector and unaided wind dispersal. Generally, introduction takes the form of eggs, caterpillar, pupae or adults and or a combination of any of these.

The spread of FAW
Dr Karbo said the adult moths fly actively and were known to move over long distances with air currents before depositing mass of eggs. This forms part of the wind–assisted method of spread.

“Transfer as a contaminant of a commodity, for example, fresh plant produce such as pepper, potato, tomato, fruits, cut flowers, seeds and other plant parts are mechanisms of transfer and spread within and between countries,” he stated.

The West Africa Regional Coordinator of the Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International (CABI), Dr Victor Attuquaye Clottey, said the FAW prevention called for a combination of strong phyto-sanitary precautions with thorough quarantine checks when trading in fresh produce between the countries.

He said farm and off-farm-hygiene within country will contribute to keeping FAW below acceptable thresholds and that transport systems such as aircrafts, haulage trucks and buses, plying between countries will require regular checks and sanitisation because the egg masses can be laid on inorganic materials and transported across borders.

“Pheromones as repellants and attractant traps may also be employed in the prevention of spread of FAW. Check excessive use of chemicals that may destroy the natural enemy of the FAW. Promote good agronomic practices, maintain crop diversity or intercropping, effective on farm monitoring (at least scout once a week) agro-ecological farming among farmers,” he stated.

Also, once there is the occurrence of FAW, using a combination of control methods– Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is ideal.

As a pillar of the Sustainable Agricultural Intensification Research and Learning in Africa (SAIRLA), a five-year programme funded by the Department for International Development (DFID) of the United Kingdom (UK), the Alliance, seeks to generate new evidence and design tools and enable policy makers, researchers and private sector actors to engage regularly.

It is being facilitated by CABI with support from the Science and Technology Policy Research Institute of the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR-STEPRI), under the auspices of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture.

The FAW invasion    
As at November last year, the government announced that it had expended about GH¢10 million on insecticides to combat the FAW outbreak.

More than 112,000 hectares of farm fields were invaded by the pests across the country. — GB