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Ministry launches war against pests

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P7 MILLION SET ASIDE TO TACKLE ARMYWORM

To curb the spread of the ravaging Fall Army worm (FAW) in the country, the Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food Security, Food Organisation (FAO)and the Japanese government have set aside P7 million to fight the destructive pest.

This was disclosed by the Chief Plant Protection officer Valeminah Pelokgale recently in Francistown during a press briefing and tour of one of the affected farms in the region.

“The Fall army worm was first detected in the United States of America. In Africa it hit our shores in 2016 and the first incident in Botswana was reported in Kweneng district in 2017,” explained the Chief Plant Protection Officer.

Since the first detection in Botswana the Fall Army Worm (FAW) has been on the increase and spreading across the country. Fall Army Worm mainly attacks cereal crops such as maize, millet and sorghum.

“This planting season we have received reports from all districts except Kgalagadi and Gantsi. As government, together with our partners we will use the P7 million to educate farmers and other stakeholders about fall army worm.”

“In other interventions we have set traps around the country to capture the adult Fall Army warm. We have printed pamphlets and posters to disseminate all critical information about this pest. We have also collaborated with media houses, universities such as BUAN, BIUST and UB to raise awareness,”said Pelokgale who went on to reiterate that awareness and education campaign is critical, because there are different kinds of armyworms.

“But the Fall Army worm is localised in one area and does not move in swamps. This worm in particular has a Y shape on its forehead and four dots on its abdomen. These are the distinguishing features of FAW from other army worms.”

This season Pelokgale said the most hard hit districts were Southern and South East districts.

“Some of the farms we inspected have an estimated damage of 70 per cent and above. In short, the worms have left the maize crop in tatters,”she lamented.

Currently the Ministry does not have approximates of yield loss for the 2019/20 ploughing season.

On a continental level, Dr Willio Ochilo from the Centre of Agriculture and Bio Science (CABI) revealed the situation in Botswana was simillar to situations in other African countries.

“All countries in Africa are experiencing similar challenges with the FAW. The extent of damage is far reaching and cause crippling food shortage, it is therefore critical to fight the pest with all we have”, continued Ochilo.

The CABI representative who is based in Nairobi Kenya said ,” Fall army worm can be controlled through crop rotation, weeding field thoroughly and inspecting one’s field frequent so a farmer detects pest presence very early before extensive damage to crops has been caused.”

A single moth of fall army worm can produce approximately 2 000 eggs and cause yield loss ranging between 73 to 90 per cent.

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