Fall armyworm has continued to infest maize crops in Ethiopia’s three major maize-growing states and so far 52,000 hectares of Maize crop has been ravaged by the migratory insect, an official said on Wednesday.The prevailing warm and moist weather conditions provide favorable environment for the insect to multiply massively and spread in 144 districts of Gambella, Oromia and Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples’ states of the country, Zebdewos Salato, the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources Director of the Plant Protection Directorate said.
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.
Aided by wind front, the fall armyworm of a single generation can spread quickly as far as 500 kilometers away from its point of emergence.
“We expect the infestation to spread to other regions and cover wider areas in the coming months,” he said. “Many farmers in the regions have already planted maize or will plant in June. As more areas plant maize it is very likely that the pests will spread to more maize areas, including in Afar, Amhara, Benishangul Gumuz, Oromia and Tigray.
He said the Government of Ethiopia, in collaboration with Food and Agriculture Organization and other development partners, has intensified efforts to protect major maize growing areas from the ravage of the fall armyworm.
The fall army worm is a migratory insect pest known to cause massive destruction of maize crops under warm and humid conditions in the Americas.
He said the ministry is working hard to make vulnerable regions aware of the need to prepare for possible fall armyworm infestation.
“The insect is establishing itself and is expected to remain an economic pest for very long time to come. Hence we need to put in place a short and long term fall armyworm management and control plan,” Bayeh Mulatu, National Integrated Pest Management Expert at FAO, said.
For the current season, pesticides have been recommended, as the infestation is massive. Farmers are being advised to handpick the insect when the infestations are very low or apply contact and systemic pesticides using knapsack sprayers when the infestation is significant to cause economic damage, he added
According to recent reports, about 24,000 hectares of maize fields have been sprayed with about 36,000 liters of pesticides, and about 12,600 hectares of land have been covered by handpicking the fall army.