8 February, 2017
Ministry to drive awareness of new crop pest
SINCE the positive identification of the Fall Army Worm in South Africa, the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (Daff) has said it will drive awareness and give farmers technical information and control options.
The worm, native to South and Central America, is a new pest to South Africa, and no pesticide was previously registered to be used against it.
According to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation, the worm is causing considerable crop damage in some countries, and could dampen the prospects for good crop harvests that are anticipated in the current farming season.
Maize has been the most affected, as well as other cereals, including sorghum, millet and wheat.
The organisation's sub-regional co-ordinator for southern Africa, David Phiri, said: "The situation remains fluid. Preliminary reports indicate possible presence (of the pest) in Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe has positively identified the presence of the pest, while the rest are expected to release test results soon."
Daff has informed commodity and research organisations of a possible threat and encouraged producers to report possible pest damage.
"The Fall Army Worm is a strong flyer and could be distributed by prevailing winds over large distances. The department realises that trans-boundary pests and diseases, especially migratory pests, threaten food security and that co-ordinated regional efforts are important to address these risks.
"The department will, therefore, participate at the upcoming engagement hosted by the Food and Agricultural Organisation, which claims to strengthen and align efforts to strengthen controls of plant and animal pests and diseases.
"We will equally continue our engagement with the Southern African Development Community to ensure early warnings of these biological threats are in place," Daff said.
The department has also initiated a plant pest action group that consists of members from provincial departments of agriculture, researchers, several producers' associations, and industries that may be affected by this pest.