Armyworms attack 4000 hectares of maize field in Balaka

Over 4000 hectares of maize field has been affected by fall army worms in Balaka with 39 percent of the crop heavily damaged, the District’s Agriculture Development Office (DADO) has disclosed.

Fall Army Worm, a new pest that attacked many maize fields in some districts in Malawi.

The officer responsible Denis Zingeni said this Friday when he briefed members of Balaka District Civil Protection Committee (DCPC) about the state of affairs regarding the worm infestation in the district.

The affected fields represent 7.5 percent of the total 53, 000 hectares of land under maize cultivation in the district.

Most of the heavily affected crop fields fall under Ulongwe Extension Planning Area (EPA) specifically in Traditional Authorities (TAs) Amidu, Kalembo and Kachenga.

“The damage has been notable in these areas where they planted early, between 26 and 27 October. But the situation now is that the attack is spreading to the other five EPAs of Utale, Mpilisi, Bazale, Phalula and Rivirivi,” Zingeni said.

He has since appealed to farmers to frequently scout their maize fields as one way of identifying fall army worm at an early stage.

“Experience has shown that if chemicals are applied when the worm is at its early stages, the chemicals are working. But late identification while the damage has already spread, the chemicals are not working,” Zingeni said.

Since the worm started attacking maize crop, the district’s agriculture office has been conducting trainings for frontline staff and lead farmers in scouting maize fields for early identification of the pest.

Zingeni commended nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that are coming forward to assist in fighting the pest.

He cited United Purpose, which has assisted in procurement of 440 litres of chemicals and distribution of protective gears and 84 sprayers. He also mentioned Sun, a local NGO working in the district, which has distributed 125 traps.

But more support is needed to contain the pest before it spreads to the rest of 53,000 hectares of maize crop in the district.

“More resources are needed for Balaka to rescue its maize crop. We need 8000 litres of chemicals, sprayers and protective clothing,” Zingeni said.

President Prof. Arthur Peter Mutharika declared fall army worm as a disaster on December 15, 2017 after 20 districts out of 28 were affected by the pest.

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