The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has suggested inter-cropping as the best natural method to tackle army worm infestation in Africa. This is coming even as the organisation has developed a five-year project known as `Fall Army Worm’ to control the spread of the pest in the continent.
Mr Allan Hruska, the Principal Technical Coordinator of the project, who spoke with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja, said that inter-cropping which involved planting different crops in a farmland, was an important way of attracting beneficial insects into the farm to kill 50 percent of the population of the army worm larva. He said the use of pesticides to control the spread of army worm, especially in maize would facilitate the elimination of beneficial insects in the farm and was also hazardous to health and the environment.
The coordinator appealed to government to fund extension services to enable farmers gather adequate knowledge that would lead to food security in the sub-region.
“It is the farmers who need to be empowered, they need to understand these things because they are the ones who would take actions at the end of the day in their farms and this will help the country actualise the food security that they need,’’ Hruska said.
On the project, Mr Hruska said it would also involve both radio and television campaigns to educate farmers in 14 ECOWAS member countries on possible measures to control the outbreak. He noted that the FAO was reaching out to the World Bank, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Department for International Development (DFID) to raise funds for the project.
The African army worm (Spodoptera exempta) also called okalombo or nutgrass army-worm is an African moth. It is a very deleterious pest, capable of destroying entire crops in a matter of weeks.
The larvae feed on all types of grasses, early stages of cereal crops (e.g., corn, rice, wheat, millet, sorghum) sugar cane, and occasionally on coconut.
The pest is reported to have spread across no fewer than 26 states, ravaging maize farms in the affected states.