Stop FAW in its tracks this maize season

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The Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) has made a clarion call to growers of all maize and related host crops, such as sorghum and sweetcorn, including community members, to take precautionary control measures against the fall armyworm (FAW).

In South Africa, FAW is a regulated pest in terms of the Control Measures Relating to FAW, R. 449 of 26 May 2017 of the Agricultural Pests Act, 1983 (Act No 36 of 1983). FAW is a disastrous exotic pest with a wide host range. If not properly controlled, it could damage the host crop and/or yield loss.

FAW is present all over South Africa. However the level of infestation varies per province, district, or area. With early rain experienced in different parts of the country, high infestation levels can be expected. This will vary from the 2019/20 season when there was limited to no rain, accompanied by reduced FAW outbreaks.

Farmers and community members are advised to take precautionary control measures, such as vigilantly scouting for egg packs, leaf damage, and caterpillars, as well as trapping to ensure early detection for effective control of FAW.

The moth can be caught in traps with a lure, which can also serve as an early warning of its presence. For agrochemical control, a list of registered agrochemicals is available on the DALRRD website.

Take action with integrated management

Effective control of the FAW can be realised through integrated pest management practice. It is best to start agrochemical spraying while the caterpillars are less than 1cm in length. Large caterpillars (over 1cm) crawl deep into maize plants’ leaf whorls, making it difficult to reach them when agricultural chemicals are applied.

The main concern with this pest is that it can rapidly develop resistance to agrochemicals. Therefore it is highly recommended to rotate the agricultural chemicals within the cropping season in accordance with the resistance group and mode of action.

The European Union (EU) has extended emergency import measures for FAW hosts, such as sweetcorn, peppers, and eggplant. Growers must ensure they comply with these measures before they apply for a phytosanitary certification with DALRRD.

Farmers and community members are encouraged to do regular scouting for FAW, particularly in younger plantings. They can contact the nearest local agriculture centre for technical advice. For further media enquiries, contact Reggie Ngcobo, media liaison officer on 082 883 2458. – Press release, DALRRD