Friday, 12 May 2017

Understanding the fall armyworm attacking Uganda farmers

Farmers in over 60 districts of Uganda are struggling to contain the (American) fall armyworm pest which has inflicted considerable destruction on one of the most grown crops, maize. But it appears this is just one part of the story if the fall armyworm is not eradicated soon, the loss will go beyond maize. There are two types of armyworms, the African and the American.

Here is a simple description of one researcher: "The African armyworm, Spodoptera exempta is endemic in most of Africa including Uganda. The (American) fall armyworm is scientifically named Spodoptera frugiperda. This is the armyworm affecting a number of countries in Africa including various districts in Uganda. The African armyworm has been reported to affect sorghum, sugarcane, millet, rice, maize, barley, oats, wheat and ginger. However, the fall armyworm has even a wider host range. In addition to those, affected by the African armyworm, it also feeds on cotton, millet, groundnut, soybean, tobacco, orange, pawpaw and a number of flowers."

Some scientists say the fall armyworm can have 10 to 12 cycles and one can lay between 50 and 300 eggs under a host plant leaf. In warm temperature the fall armyworm takes only 30 days to develop from egg to adult. 

It is said the fall armyworm is a migratory pest therefore one may not do much to prevent its entry into any area. The only solution is to eradicate it. How we are performing on this front is another story.

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