Plan in motion to fight Fall Army Worm

Tuesday, February 7, 2017
Fall Army Worm

Pretoria – A South African Emergency Plant Pest Response Plan, which deals with new pest detections, is already in motion to fight the Fall Army Worm (FAW).

Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Senzeni Zokwana briefed the media on Monday following the detection of Spodoptera Frugiperda (Fall Army Worm) for the first time in South Africa.

The department recently received a diagnostic report from the Agricultural Research Council - Plant Protection Research Institute (ARC PPRI), which confirms that the FAW was positively identified from samples collected in Limpopo province.

The samples were jointly collected by the ARC Grain Institute and the North West University. Moths were also collected on 3 February 2017 from the northern parts of Gauteng and were positively identified as FAW.

The FAW is a strong flyer and could be distributed by prevailing winds over large distances.

The first detection of the pests in Africa was reported in Nigeria in January 2016. Iit then spread to other West African countries and to Central Africa in April 2016.

Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi indicated an outbreak of FAW during December 2016.

In South Africa, the pests have been attacking sweet corn and other maize planted for seeds. However, the extent of the spread has not yet been identified or quantified.

Minister Zokwana said now that there is a positive identification, his department will continue with the assessment of spread and damage, awareness actions to provide farmers with accurate technical information and control options.

“Pheromone traps will be imported into South Africa to determine the exact extent of the spread and the specific strain of FAW present in South Africa. Diagnostic support has been increased to deal with the bulk of sample identification,” said Minister Zokwana.

He said since FAW is a new pest to South Africa, no pesticide was previously registered to be used against it.

“A process of emergency registration of agricultural chemicals is ongoing with two active ingredients already registered to be applied against this pest. As with all agricultural remedy applications, the label instructions must be followed in accordance to the supplier’s recommendations,” the Minister said.

Pest action group

The Minister said the department will also undertake a more comprehensive survey to determine the spread of the pest. An awareness campaign has been rolled out to all provinces to provide technically correct information regarding the management of the pest.

“DAFF [Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries] has also initiated a pest action group, which consists of members from the provincial department, researchers, several producers’ associations and industries, which may be affected by the pest.”

The group will meet regularly to evaluate progress and results.

Pesticides registration

The department’s Registrar, Jonathan Madzunga, said to get pesticide registration in South Africa, manufactures are required to provide data to prove that the product will work and will also be safe when it is consumed by consumers.

“Luckily, with respect to the worms we are dealing with, we already identified a number of tools and chemicals that are already registered amongst various crops… We are confident that if growers and farmers use those products, the products would be used safely.”

Madzunga said currently, the department has received a number of applications from pesticide manufacturers and the process of getting these products is ongoing.

Meanwhile, the department is expected to participate in the upcoming engagement hosted by the Food and Agricultural Organisation, which aims to strengthen and align efforts to control plant and animal pests and diseases.

The department will continue with its engagement with the Southern African Development Community to ensure early warnings of these biological threats are in place. –