Early warning signals should help control FAW spread

‘Once bitten, twice shy’ is the most apt adage that explains the general apprehension surrounding the emergence of fall armyworm (FAW) infestation that seems to have come to stay with us for a long time.

Since 2017, the devastation wrought by the FAW in Ghana has been phenomenal – and as a result many grain farmers are dreading what to expect this year, considering the damage suffered when it emerged on a national scale last year.

As a result of damage caused to farmers, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) is leaving no stone unturned and has begun research to find a permanent solution to the menace.   Dr. Mrs. Felicia Ansah-Amprofi, Director-in-charge of MoFA’s Plant Protection and Regulatory Services (PPRSD), briefed the media on efforts aimed at eradicating FAW.

Already, even before the main farming season takes off in earnest, farms in four regions have reported attacks by the invasive pests…and that sends chills down the spines of farmers who fear incurring loss this farming season, also.

To date, 22,297 litres of insecticide have so far been distributed to farmers to manage about 249,054 hectares of affected maize farms. With the resurgence, Dr. Ansah-Amprofi believes the infestation could become a regional problem and has advocated a comprehensive approach to deal with the menace.

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The PPRSD director has also indicated that there has been a shift in focus from synthetic insecticides to bio-rational products to ensure minimum pest resistance, and that ‘nnoboa spraying teams’ have been formed and trained in farming communities.

These initiatives are good and show that this year, with hindsight, we are a little bit more prepared for the infestation better than last year when it first broke to different reactions. Since then, funds have been released for procuring insecticides to manage the caterpillars.

Scientists and pest/disease control experts around the world have over the decades struggled to produce an antidote that will help wipe-out the notorious fall army worm pest, which is causing vast damage to crops around the globe.

Early detection of the pests should serve as an early warning signal to prepare adequately for their eventual proliferation. There must be constant monitoring of crops, and extension agents must be on hand to give technical advice as to the dosage that should be applied as most farmers are not educated enough to read the instructions.

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