The Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development has warned farmers to be on the lookout since there is an outbreak of fall armyworms in the country.
The ministry has informed the general public about the crisis through a statement dated 4th January 2020 signed by the Secretary for Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Gray Nyandule Phiri.
According to the ministry, rain coupled with availability of green grass is very conducive to the growth and development of armyworms hence the outbreak.
“The armyworms attack plants mostly in the grass family which include maize, sorghum, millet, rice and pasture. They are destructive and can cause severe crop losses if left uncontrolled,” reads part of the statement.
The ministry has advised all farmers to be regularly inspecting fields looking for caterpillars on the underside of the cereal crop leaves or windowing effect for the African Armyworm.
According to the ministry, the presence of scraped patches on leaves, young green caterpillars with big black heads, holes on leaves and presence of larvae in the whorl or the top middle part of the plant signifies an attack by Fall Armyworms.
In its statement, the ministry has told farmers to promptly report armyworm outbreaks or any suspected worms to the nearest Agricultural Office or Extension workers within their communities.
“The officers will provide advice on how to manage the pests and pesticides for the control of these armyworms. In addition, the Extension Workers are encouraged to be organizing the affected farmers into groups for proper pest management operations,” the ministry says.
It has, however, advised farmers that the pesticides Agricultural Offices and Extension workers are not for sale and they should be given to farmers or farming communities for free.
The ministry has also told farmers or communities to report to police if they are asked to pay for the free pesticides that government is giving to them to control the armyworms.