Elita Chikwati Senior Agriculture Reporter
Ministers of agriculture from SADC are expected to meet in Swaziland soon to come up with ways of solving crop and livestock pests and diseases that have wreaked havoc in the region.
Zimbabwe will be represented by the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development deputy ministers Paddy Zhanda (livestock) and Davis Marapira (cropping).
Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister Dr Joseph Made said the meeting came at a time when the region was struggling with the fall armyworm that had spread to many countries. He said fall armyworm had spread across Zimbabwe and its effects were not visible at this time of the year, as there was a lot of plant material to feed on.
Fall armyworm is new in Zimbabwe and causes extensive damage to crops such as maize and cotton if not controlled properly on time.
The pest has 10 to 12 cycles and could continue recurring after the first spray.
“First and foremost, the fall armyworm is in the country,” said Dr Made.
“The fall armyworm is in the cocoon stage. Because of the season, it is mainly now pupating in the dry maize cobs and residues and also in the pastures, especially thick grasses like Star and Bana grass.
“There is need for farmers to have knowledge about the pest so they can take adequate control measures timely. We must keep watch in the cotton and the irrigated crop, particularly the late planted crop, even the one that was produced under dry land.”
Dr Made said what was important in Zimbabwe was to ensure the training of extension workers and farmers because the pests know no boundaries.
“Every household should have a knapsack sprayer so that farmers spray when there is a problem,” he said.
“I urge farmers not to experiment with chemicals because the pest may develop resistance.
“Spraying teams should always be on the ground and on the lookout than wait to be called when there is a problem. A combination of spraying teams and equipped farmers will help curb the problem.”
Department of Plant Protection and Research Institute chief entomologist Dr Godfrey Chikwenhere said farmers should continue fighting the pests.
“Fall armyworm has been identified in some irrigated maize in Manicaland,” he said.
“Farmers should not relax as the pest is not yet under control and can attack about 80 species of crops.
“We should remain on high alert, especially for the winter wheat as we can have another outbreak. Currently, we are testing more chemicals that can be used against the pest on top the of The Cabayrl 85 Wettable Powder and farmers will be informed accordingly.”
Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union president Mr Wonder Chabikwa said there could be a huge outbreak of fall armyworm in the next summer season.
“The Department of the Research and Specialist and Services should educate farmers on how best they can spray the pest,” he said.
“Farmers should be taught on the available chemicals. We urge farmers to continue scouting for the pest.”