An invasion of armyworms is stripping southern Africa of key food crops !

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An invasion of armyworms is stripping southern Africa of key food crops !

Post by Spiral on Wed Feb 15, 2017 1:12 pm

An invasion of armyworms is stripping southern Africa of key food crops and could spread to other parts of the continent, experts have warned at an emergency meeting of 16 African countries.

South Africa, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Zambia are among the countries where the fall armyworm has invaded fields of maize, a staple crop throughout the region.

The fall armyworm is a new threat in southern Africa. It is mostly associated with the Americas, where it has been present since 1957, said David Phiri, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation coordinator for the region.

The pest is devastating to crops and so far has been impossible to eradicate.

“They have not managed to control it because it keeps evolving,” Phiri said. “But we have to find a plan for managing it.”

Food insecurity would worsen without a solution, he said. “What is of particular concern is that the pest has affected countries that are the main producers of maize.”

South Africa’s agriculture ministry early this month said little was known about how the armyworms arrived or what their long-term effects would be. “It may become a migratory pest similarly to the African armyworm and may migrate in large numbers from one area to another, causing great damage.”

Affected crops also include sorghum, soybeans, groundnuts and potatoes, the ministry said.

The region has been struggling with what the United Nations has called its worst drought in more than three decades.

Zimbabwe, once prosperous and an exporter of maize, has been battling food shortages for years. Over four million people, or a third of the population, are in dire need of assistance, according to the World Food Programme.

Ringson Chitsiko, permanent secretary in Zimbabwe’s ministry of agriculture, said the government has begun distributing pesticides and providing information to farmers.

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