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Gov'ts Urged To Adopt Crop Quarantine to Stop Fall Army Worms

Dr. John Recha, a Kenyan Agronomist with the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security CCAFS in East Africa, says once enforced crop quarantine will overwhelm the pest to extinction.

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Countries affected by Fall Army worms in Sub Saharan Africa should embrace Crop quarantine to control the invasive pest, a Kenyan crop scientist has proposed.

Dr. John Recha, a Kenyan Agronomist with the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) in East Africa, says once enforced crop quarantine will overwhelm the pest to extinction.

The worms that present in form of caterpillars, march across the landscape in large groups feasting on young plants. Originally from South America, the pests have been reported in Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Burundi, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and South Sudan among others, where they have devastated millions of hectares of maize farms.

The bug prefers maize but can feed on more than 80 species of plants including rice, sorghum, millet, sugarcane, vegetable crops and cotton. Dr. Recha says crop quarantine is a biological method involving the deprivation of the pest of its host plant on, which it feeds and reproduce for a season in order to break its life cycle, survival and multiplication. 

The method he says is effective when farmers are encouraged to suspend the host crop in favor of other alternatives for their livelihoods. He says when government creates market for the alternative crop with the support of farmer organizations; the farmers producing the alternative crop can still buy enough maize grains from elsewhere to sustain their livelihoods and income needs. 

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Dr. Recha says suspending the host crop will overwhelm the pests by breaking its breeding cycle through starvation. He says the size of the falls army worms and their numbers make it hard for farmers to physically remove them from the host plants. 

He says crops such as Sorghum, Millet and Ground nuts can be used as alternatives for sustaining the livelihoods of farmers when the cultivation of their mainstay food crop - Maize is on hold for a season or two. 

Dr. Recha says the crop quarantine works on the principle used to control the infestation of livestock diseases.

 

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According to Dr. Recha, the menace of the fall army worm is here to stay with farmers unless an integrated approach is adopted sooner than later to prevent the use of chemicals adulterating the food value chain.

 

 

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He says the use of early planting and other agronomic practices have also proven effective in controlling the fall army worms in an environment of heavy rainfall.

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As the life cycle is being broken over a season, the pest would have laid their eggs on the ground. Dr. Recha says the crop quarantine can drastically reduce the number of the pests when they hatch again in the coming season. 

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A quarter of Maize growing region of East Africa has been affected by the Fall army worms. Dr. Recha says governments should capitalize on ecological difference for the survival of the fall army worm in the region to attack the worms with swift expertise.

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The worm was first reported on the African continent in Nigeria. It subsequently appeared across parts of West and Central Africa, before extensively invading farmers' fields in southern Africa in December 2016, a report by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) shows. 

The UN food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) says that following the spread, Zambia, another African country in the Sub Saharan region, lost more than 90,000 hectares of maize to the pests. Malawi lost 17,000 hectares, Zimbabwe reported a potential 130,000 hectares affected, while in Namibia, approximately 50,000 hectares of maize and millet were damaged, according to the