Agric ministry warns of return of Fall Armyworms

The Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) has warned farmers of the return of Fall Armyworms in the country.

Already, some Districts in Ahafo, Ashanti, Bono, Bono East, Central, Eastern, Greater Accra and Western regions are reported to have recorded Fall Armyworm (FAW) infestations on maize plantations.

In a statement, the ministry urged all farmers to be on the lookout for the Fall Armyworm (FAW) infestation as early as possible and implement the necessary management options to deal with the pest.

“Fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) is now an endemic pest in Ghana and will continue to pose a serious threat to food security and livelihood of thousands of smallholder maize farmers. Surveillance reports indicate pockets of Fall Armyworm (FAW) infestations on maize planted in lowland and irrigated fields in some districts in Ahafo, Ashanti, Bono, Bono East, Central, Eastern, Greater Accra and Western regions,” the ministry’s statement read.

It added, “farmers are being informed to monitor their fields frequently just after seed emergence for early detection of signs and symptoms of FAW infestation and implement the necessary management options at the vulnerable stages of the larvae

“Farmers and the general public are to report FAW infestations to the nearest Department of Agric. Office, Agricultural Extension Agents or the Plant Protection and Regulatory Services Directorate (PPRSD) Head Office in Pokuase, Accra for advice”.

According to Esoko Ghana, the insect was first spotted in the Yilo Krobo District in the Eastern Region in 2016. Reports indicate the country lost US$64 million due to the infestation of the pest covering twenty thousand (20,000) hectares of farms in 2018 alone.

In June 2019, farmers from various parts of Sissala East Municipal and Sissala West District in the Upper West Region reported the invasion of Fall Armyworm on maize farms, destroying large quantities of the cereal crop.

The emergence of the Fall Armyworms in farming communities with their feeding characteristics of ravaging crops, especially maize, reduced harvests.

Research has shown that the fall armyworm has a desirous appetite and feeds on more than 80 plant species, including maize, sorghum, peanut, soybean, millet, rice, vegetable crops, among others. The worm can reproduce and spread quickly given the right environmental conditions.

Though fall armyworms can damage corn plants in nearly all stages of its development, it will concentrate on later plantings that have not yet silked.

The fall armyworm feeds superficially on one side of the leaf and the young worm caterpillar uses ballooning (spread by the wind on a thread of silk) to spread to new host plants.

One worm egg batch contains many eggs for one plant, and ballooning always occurs soon after hatching.

Farmers have, therefore, been encouraged to look out for the pest on their farms by regularly visiting their farms after the seeds begin to germinate.

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