Steps are being taken to fight fall armyworm, an invasive species from the Americas that arrived in AFrica in 2016 and which has spread across the continent attacking maize crops.
The fall armyworm is not related to the true armyworm that Zimbabwean farmers have beome used to for decades, since it too was introduced from the Americas.
Fall armyworm caught Zimbawean farmers off guard last year, and caused extensive damage to crops, while farmers struggled to find ways to control it.
The pest can have multiple generations per year as the female moth can lay up to 2 000 eggs in her life time.
Seed houses and chemical manufacturing companies had to be at their innovative best to control the Fall armyworm that had threatened the maize crop last season.
Zimbabwe is said to have suffered at least 30-60 percent harvest losses at the hands of this destructive pest.
Scientific and technological innovations were called into place for seed houses and chemical suppliers to find a lasting solution for the marauding fall armyworm that threatens food security.
Syngenta has scored a first by developing a seed treatment chemical (Fortenza Duo) that can be used to treat any maize seed variety to protect it from Fall Armyworm and other pests.
In an Interview with The Herald, Syngenta Consultant Mr Joe Mkandla said because the fall armyworm is a threat to food security and country’s bread basket status, they were forced to call to action their scientific expertise to minimise the damage caused by the pest by launching a resistant maize variety.
“The fall armyworm was first reported in south west Nigeria in late January 2016, and quickly spread to almost all maize growing countries in Africa including Zimbabwe. Most countries were caught off guard not knowing with what pest they were dealing or the devastation it could cause. Fortenza Duo insecticide seed treatment targets a range of pests from the earliest stage possible and protects the plant for 30 days.
“ Seed treatments are a crucial part of an effective FAW control strategy. They protect the seed from the start and can mitigate a few of the challenges that occur with foliar applications.
“Protecting seeds and young plants from the very beginning gives them the opportunity to survive during the critical first days after planting, even under high insect pressure conditions,” he said.
Mr Mkandla said the protecting seed chemical has potential to aid the crop to have big yields as it can reduce pest presence from an early age.
“Fortenza Duo will significantly reduce pests present in and around the crop and will prevent them to reproduce.
“It (Fortenza Duo) will kill the first occurrence of the pest in all larvae stages of the pest’s life cycle.
Fall armyworms have an immense appetite, occur in great numbers and can damage entire fields in a few days.
The pathways of the pest’s introduction into Africa are yet unknown, there are multiple possibilities, but it is assumed that it travelled to Africa eitehr as an unwanted passenger on a plane or with cargo on a ship.