The Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development has confirmed a false armyworms outbreak which has affected about 1 709 hectares of maize crop in Blantyre Agricultural Development Division (ADD).
The ADD has 56 000 hectares of maize crop.
Speaking when he briefed Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development George Chaponda when he inspected crops in Blantyre ADD on Monday, Bvumbwe Research Station agricultural entomologist Donald Kachigamba said the problem is not “very serious”.
However, he said if infestation is large and uncontrolled, it becomes serious and can cause 100 percent loss of maize crop.
“These false armyworms are sporadic; they do not attack the whole field, but just here and there. The problem is a bit serious in Lunzu Extension Planning Area [EPA], but in other areas where we have visited, it is not serious,” said Kachigamba.
A visit to Lunzu and Chiradzulu extension planning areas (EPAs) found some farmers complaining of the false armyworms. They also expressed fear that if no action is taken by the ministry, the pests are likely to affect their yields.
Symon Muliya, a farmer in Chiradzulu, said the worms which attacked his farm disappeared on their own after heavy rains.
Meanwhile, armyworm attacks have also been reported in Shire Valley and Kasungu ADDs.
In Shire Valley ADD, a few mild cases were reported in Mikalango and Mitole EPAs in Chikwawa and in Makhanga and Zunde EPAs in Nsanje but according to the ADD’s manager, the cases are not serious and farmers are being advised on what to do.
Similar cases were reported in Kasungu, Ntchisi and Dowa under Kasungu ADD.
But so far no cases have been reported in Mzuzu, Salima, Machinga and Karonga ADDs.
However, one case was reported in Lilongwe where a farmer in Chinsapo Township found a stalk borer in his backyard, according to Lilongwe ADD deputy agriculture development officer George Kaperemera.
Attempts to get a comment from Mzuzu ADD proved futile.
Karonga ADD programmes manager said the area has not recorded any case of armyworms possibly because its geographical position is not close to Zambia where the outbreak has also been registered.
For Kasungu ADD, programme officer Bennard Banda said there were reports of false armyworms outbreaks in Ntchisi, Kasungu and Dowa. He said the situation has since been put under control
Commenting on the matter, Chaponda said officials at the ministry initially thought the reports were about stalk borers.
However, it was later established that the pests were false armyworms.
Chaponda then urged farmers to report any suspected attacks to agriculture extension workers in their communities.
“Pesticides are available across all the districts in all the eight ADDs to allow farmers control the pests. The ministry will ensure that the situation is controlled and does not have any effect on maize yields,” he said. n