MoFA scouts for domestic ‘natural predators’ to fight Fall Armyworms

The Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) is on a hunt for diverse natural predators in the country to help with biological control of Fall Armyworms (FAW).

“As an option to control FAW, a research team is moving around the country to collect the larvae and eggs of FAW and take them to the laboratory to examine how to get some parasitoids on them. On that basis, the ministry will be informed how to roll out a biological control measure,” Mr. Ebenezer Aboagye, Head-Crop Pest and Diseases Management, Plant Protection and Regulatory Services Directorate (PPRSD) of MoFA, has said.

Biological control is a method of controlling pests by using other organisms. The scientific practice relies on predation, parasitism and other natural mechanisms, but requires an active human management role.

He said: “If the ministry is able to get some domestic natural control agents, it will rear and multiply them in the laboratory and unleash them to the field to fight FAW”.  Alternatively, the ministry will import parasitoids from Brazil and other American countries from where the pests migrated from to Africa, if it doesn’t get local natural enemies, he added.

FAW invasion in Ghana was first reported in 2016. The pest subsequently, in the 2017 major farming season, attacked about 167,813 hectares of maize – destroying over 14,000 ha. In the midst of the outbreak, the ministry as well as troubled farmers adopted many firefighting measures. This has necessitated the MoFA drive to improve upon its management strategies ahead of the coming farming seasons.

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On the sidelines of a training of trainers’ workshop on FAW management held in Sunyani for selected MoFA and NADMA personnel in Brong Ahafo Region, Mr. Aboagye told B&FT that the ministry is currently conducting efficacy trials of available insecticides and recommending the best for farmers’ use.

“Unlike last year, when the large quantity of chemicals distributed to farmers was synthetic, MoFA will this time round distribute more organic insecticides. This is to help in preservation of the environment. Synthetic insecticides have serious effects on the environment,” he revealed.

As part of the 2018 work plan, MoFA has installed 57 pheromone traps across the country. The FAO is also in the process of importing more to help the cause. Besides, Mr. Aboagye emphasised, MoFA will strengthen the national pest surveillance system to provide early warning.

He advised farmers to make allocation for insecticides in their crop budget. This, he explained, will help farmers get money to start spraying at the early detection stage before they fall on MoFA for other supports.

On his part, Mr. Christopher Ocloo, Brong Ahafo Regional Plants Protection Director, MoFA – in a presentation mentioned removal of volunteer crops which could serve as breeding sites, said: “Removing plants from local surroundings which could act as alternative hosts when the main crop is harvested can reduce the growth rate of many pests. The crop that remains in the field after harvest harbours a large number of pests and acts as a source of infestation”.

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He also preached against using one insecticide continuously, saying: “It is advisable to alternate so as to minimise the pest’s ability to develop resistance”.

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