Uganda’s scientists now fight alien crop pest

Thursday April 13 2017

Armyworm invasion: It is very hungry (and not

Armyworm invasion: It is very hungry (and not picky) — This pest targets maize (the primary food crop in many of the areas where the pest has been identified) and other cereal crops, plus cotton, soybean, potato and tobacco crops. When it does invade, up to three-quarters of the crop can be destroyed. PHOTO | AFP 


After finding a temporary pesticide combination that works against the fall armyworm, Uganda’s scientists now seek a lasting solution to the pests that have invaded more than half of the country posing a significant threat to food security.

Agriculture ministry officials told The EastAfrican that the armyworms have spread to at least 54 districts that are major maize growing areas. Scientists however said this could be an underestimation given the quick manner in which the pests spread.

The insects can travel up to 2,000km a year.
In addition to maize, the armyworms have attacked sorghum, sugarcane and elephant grass.

The current maize shortage not only affects human food but also poultry feed whose prices have began to rise. Elephant grass is a major source of livestock feed.

First reported
Since the fall armyworm invasion was first reported in July 2016, in the western Uganda district of Kasese that borders DR Congo, scientists have been conducting studies to confirm the exactly what type of worms they are as they are alien to Uganda. They are now looking for an effective pesticide to combat them.

The fall armyworm does not have any known chemical developed specifically against it.

“Research has identified dudufenos, rocket and striga and any insecticide that contains profenofos as a rapid method to contain the spread, but we are doing further research on how to find a lasting solution to the problem,” said Dr Michael Otim, head of cereal research at the National Crop Resources Research Institute in Namulonge.

“We have recorded resistance from two major sources, the presence of counterfeit drugs on the market and farmers not knowing how to effectively mix and apply the drugs,” said Sunday Emmanuel, the secretary general of the Uganda National Farmers Federation.