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June 23, 2019

Conference Proposes Anti-Fall Armyworm Protocol

At a recent conference in Nairobi organised by the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE), scientists proposed seven best practices that could help maize farmers curb the pest.

1) Use of diversified maize cropping systems, including maize-legume intercropping, which research has shown reduces FAW incidence from 30 to 75 per cent as compared to monocrop.

2) Adoption of safe control methods, such as the use of biopesticides.

3) Strengthening of understand the in-depth biology and ecology of the pest especially in the African context where the climatic conditions are different from North American countries where it originated.

4) Awareness creation...continuous education of farmers and extension officers.

5)  Pest develops resistance to chemicals. With the invasion of fall armyworm, a marked increase in the use of pesticides by maize growers and promotion of the same by governments through subsidies has been observed. However, the use of chemicals does not seem to work as would be expected. Although some chemicals show some degree of efficacy against the fall armyworm, the pest is developing resistance to some chemicals.

6) Danger of chemicals. Some chemical combinations showed some level of efficacy but poisonous residue remained on maize and in soils sprayed, making it poisonous for people and animals. Chemicals are known to kill non-target organisms like bees and natural enemies of FAW that could disrupt establishment of prey-predator balance that is essential in the natural control of FAW.

7) Natural methods more effective. Scientists advocated “push-pull technology”, maize-legume intercropping systems and use of botanical and microbial pesticides. Field surveys have also indicated the presence of effective parasitoids of FAW already in Africa.

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