Sustainable control of Fall Armyworm lies in using integrated pest management

Author

Teopista Mutesi

Source(s)
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations - Headquarters

Maize remains a crucial part of the food security equation in Southern Africa and other sub-regions on the continent for both human and animal consumption. Close to 90 percent of approximately 347 million people in Southern Africa are dependent on maize as their staple food.

Yet, maize faces serious risks from Fall Armyworm (FAW) during all the stages of its growth.

The Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI)’s latest estimate of the total annual cost of invasive alien species in Africa shows that FAW causes the highest annual yield losses worth USD9.4 billion.

At the recently concluded Fall Armyworm virtual Conference whose theme was “Developing smallholder-oriented integrated pest management (IPM) strategies for Fall Armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda Smith) management,” government representatives, scientists and researchers from around the world detailed the current challenges to developing and promoting smallholder-oriented IPM and exchanged best practices.

Integrating all available nature tactics

Participants stressed the importance of using IPM, defined as an approach that integrates various pest management tactics and prioritizes safer and cost-effective options such as use of resistant varieties, agro-ecological techniques, biological control before using bio-pesticides while reserving synthetic pesticides as the very last resort.

“FAO just released a new publication ‘Prevention, preparedness, and response guidelines for Fall Armyworm’  targeting countries where the pest is absent or of limited distribution, and where FAW host plants represent a major crop. We hope that these guidelines will be used by national plant protection organizations to take suitable actions at the proper time against Fall Armyworm through timely detection to prevent or slow the spread of the pest,” said Ismahane Elouafi, FAO Chief Scientist at the Fall Armyworm virtual Conference recently.

The spread and the extent of the damage inflicted by Fall Armyworm on fields, combined with the extreme worry of farmers and calls for emergency action from governments has meant that a lot of synthetic pesticides have been used to try to control the pest. Some of these chemical pesticides are a risk to both humans and the environment as they can poison water bodies and soils.

“Reduction in the use of highly hazardous pesticides (HHPs) is one area that is critical for the safety of our environment and our farmers who usually are resource poor and have limited protection against these HHPs,” said Patrice Talla, FAO Subregional Coordinator for Southern Africa and Representative to Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Eswatini, at the Fall Armyworm conference.

Promoting high quality integrated pest management options  

In Southern Africa, maize accounts for 80 percent of cereal production with 15 million hectares and 28 million tons of maize produced (FAO, 2019).

Hosted by the Government of Malawi and organized by FAO, World Agroforestry, and the Southern African Development Community, with financial support from Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad), the workshop highlighted the role of IPM in integrating nature available tactics for Fall Armyworm management, as a critical ally in safeguarding Africa’s food security, improving rural livelihoods, and enhancing the resilience of people and communities.

“The information shared is very important for all of us to manage Fall Armyworm in our various countries and the region. Research work on management of Fall Armyworm should continue in our countries and at regional level to support agricultural development and the attainment of food security,” said David Kamangira, Senior Deputy Director of Agricultural Research Services in Malawi.

“Southern African Development Community (SADC) in collaboration with FAO is implementing a project to support the operationalization of its Regional Agricultural Policy to manage both plant and animal transboundary pests and diseases that also include FAW,” said Domingos Gove, SADC Director of Food Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Global Action for Fall Armyworm

FAO has played a significant role to support countries to respond to the pest invasion working together with other stakeholders. Currently FAO is coordinating the Global Action for Fall Armyworm Control to ensure a strong coordinated approach at global, regional and country levels to sustainably control Fall Armyworm.

“We have learned that integrated pest management is key but if it is to function well, monitoring of Fall Armyworm is a prerequisite. In terms of reaching out to smallholder farmers, field level extension agents, partners and governments, FAO’s Global Action has provided an appropriate vehicle for creating connections between the Fall Armyworm Secretariat and our member countries in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, and the Near East regions,” said Xia Jingyuan, Director, FAO Plant Production and Protection Division.

The research findings presented on low-cost, non-toxic, highly specific strategies for smallholders to manage fall armyworm, showed that agro-ecological approaches are effective against the pest and provide additional benefits.

Recommendations from the meeting encouraged support to research for improved integrated pest management outcomes, including Fall Armyworm impacts, agro-ecological and cultural control options, as well as augmentative and traditional biological control.  It was also highlighted that monitoring and early warning about Fall Armyworm was essential so as to win the battle of sustainable management of the pest.

“We have also discussed if one should integrate the Fall Armyworm-related work into more holistic pest management programs, and thus ensuring that solutions to Fall Armyworm fit within national plant protection research agendas and strategies,” said May-Guri Sæthre of Norad.

Taking a tough stance on use of toxic pesticides

Participants agreed that the roles of both the public and private sectors are pivotal in discouraging the importation and use of toxic pesticides, including de-registering highly hazardous pesticides. However, the use of safe chemical pesticides would be allowed as a last resort when monitoring indicates that pest populations exceed threshold levels.

The private sector’s contribution is equally critical especially in supporting better understanding of the dangers of pesticide misuse as well as the need to comply with safety measures, especially in the use of protective clothing, respect for recommended field re-entry periods, and appropriate disposal of pesticide containers.

From the government side, policy makers now need to strengthen and promote approaches to developing smallholder-oriented integrated pest management solutions for Fall Arymworm management, as well as enabling laws, regulations and policy frameworks.

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