Rwandan farmers to remain alert for fall armyworm pest

Sunday March 25 2018

The fall armyworm invasion cost farmers heavily

The fall armyworm invasion cost farmers heavily last year and they are being urged to take precautions against a resurgence of the pest. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA  

JOHNSON KANAMUGIRE
By JOHNSON KANAMUGIRE
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Cereal farmers in Rwanda have been warned to remain alert for a resurgence of the fall armyworm invasion.

The pest, which infested an estimated 17,521ha of maize out of over 60,000ha last year during season B was successfully controlled, but experts urge farmers to remain vigilant.

Evariste Tugirinshuti, head of the maize farmers’ federation told Rwanda Today the farmers were still grappling with a fall armyworm attack this season, though the pest was more manageable compared with last year.

He said farmers had to regularly spray pesticide once they detected the pests.

Minister of Agriculture, Geraldine Mukeshimana said the fall armyworm still poses a threat to farms in parts of the country.

“The fall armyworm is still a threat. We need farmers to be prepared to fight it early enough before it wreaks havoc. Most of the farmers have learnt how to deal with it by collecting and destroying the eggs and young caterpillars as well as spraying the infected maize,” said Dr Mukeshimana.

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Farmer education

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) warns that the fall armyworm invasion will keep spreading and farmers need to remain vigilant.

FAO emphasises the need for farmer education and community action in curbing the spread of the pest.

The organisation rolled out a campaign to lure and catch moths using traps during the current farming season B which started last month. The initiative seeks to stop fall armyworm reproduction.

According to FAO, the project seeks to reach cereal farmers living in the six districts most affected by the fall armyworm outbreak last year. They are Nyamagabe, Nyanza, Muhanga, Rwamagana, Nyagatare and Kayonza.

Figures from FAO Rwanda show the pest attacked 91.7 per cent of the maize and sorghum planted in Nyamagabe and 100 per cent of the area occupied by maize in Nyanza and Muhanga.

The outbreak also attacked 73.8 per cent of maize and sorghum planted in Kayonza, while farmers in Rwamagana lost 43.5 per cent and those in Nyagatare 8.3 per cent of their crops.

According to FAO, the campaign — under a project titled Support to the Government of Rwanda in sustainable control and management of Fall Armyworm — is expected to reach 1,200 households. It could also serve as an early warning system for the country for timely action in managing a pest invasion.

“The pheromone traps could be useful at a local level as they will alert community members and farmers,” FAO said in a statement.

Early warning

FAO Rwanda assistant representative Otto Muhinda said there was a plan to launch a monitoring and early warning system application, which is expected to help generate detailed and reliable information to manage fall armyworm invasions in the continent.

Official figures show maize and sorghum constitute 82 per cent of the country’s annual cereal production, which is estimated at 611,405 tonnes annually.

Maize in particular, has become an important staple food crop with the introduction of high quality protein varieties.

With the country still building its capacity in terms of research in order to detect and respond to trans-boundary crop pests such as the fall armyworm, Dr Mukeshimana said the government would continue exploring new response methods like the pheromone traps and efficient pesticides varieties.

According to the agriculture ministry, pesticides approved to control the fall armyworm pests are cypermethrin, lambada-cyhalothrin, pyretthrum EWC, acetamiprid and imidacloprid.

Farmers are required to monitor their farms at least three times a week and pro-actively spray in case they detect the pests.