The Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) has announced that remedial measures are being pursued to tackle the re-emergence of the ‘dreadful’ fall armyworm (FAW), reported to have already affected some farms in about four regions of the country.
It observed that unlike other invasive pests which have acclimatised to the sub-regional environment, the FAW has become a sub-regional concern that requires tact and a collective approach to reduce its adverse effects on agriculture.
To this end, MoFA said it is working with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and other development partners to ensure the effective management of FAW.
“In Ghana our measures, in line with our neighbours’, have been modelled by the Brazilian experience – which has had an incidence of FAW infestation for the past 40 years,” a statement from the Plant Protection and Regulatory Services Directorate (PPRSD) of MoFA stated.
Among the measures so far taken is included: the deployment of pheromone-trap catches in various locations countrywide to ascertain levels of infestation; and training MoFA staff and farmers in farming communities on scouting, early detection, and sustainable management of the pest in the event of an outbreak.
It is also said there is distribution of pesticides to all district offices in the country to be accessed by farmers with FAW infestations.
“We have shifted focus from synthetic insecticides to bi-rational products to ensure minimum pest resistance. Nnoboa Spraying Teams have been formed and trained in farming communities to support their colleagues to spray in the event of an infestation.”
Beyond these, the ministry indicated that it has commenced scouting for natural enemies of the FAW to reduce their population. “In the long-term, only biological control agents, microbial insecticides and botanical/organic products will be used to manage FAW in Ghana.”
Again, while some media personnel are being trained on effective reporting of FAW infestations to avoid a panic situation in maize-growing communities, public awareness programmes to educate farmers and the general public have been intensified, according to MoFA.
“Currently, we are experiencing pockets of FAW infestations on maize in some districts of the Ashanti, Brong-Ahafo, Eastern, Volta and Western Regions.”
The development is said to be the pre-season production infestation – and given that preparation toward the major farming season is now starting, it is feared that more infestations are likely to be recorded.
Farmers were asked to carry out regular field monitoring, check crop leaves for signs and report symptoms of infestation to Agric. Extension Agents for pesticides and advice for effective management of the pest.
While assuring their preparedness to deal with the situation, they also noted that early detection is critical for the management of FAW as mature larvae are more difficult to control.
The Fall Armyworm – an insect-pest native to tropical and subtropical regions of the Americas, was first detected in West Africa during January 2016, in Nigeria.
In Ghana, the incidence of FAW was reported in April 2016 at the Yilo Krobo Municipality in the Eastern Region and has since 2017 spread to all regions of the country.
Due to the anxiety caused by infestation in the maize producing communities and the likely effect on food security, the Agric Minister constituted a multi-disciplinary National Task Force drawn from MoFA, Developmental Partners and other Agencies to develop and implement strategies for the management of FAW.
Furthermore, the government of Ghana in response approved and released funds for operations and procuring of insecticides for managing the pest.
A total of 122,297 litres and 7,628 kilos of insecticides were procured and distributed to affected farmers to manage the pest. In total, 249,054 ha of maize farms were affected and sprayed. Out of that number 234,807 ha (94.3%) recovered while 14,247 ha (5.7%) of maize farm was completely destroyed.