Conrad Mupesa Mashonaland West Bureau
Government has stocked enough pesticides to control a potential quelea birds’ plague in the country’s wheat-producing districts.
Procurement of more chemicals to deal with the birds is underway as Government seeks to protect this year’s winter wheat production and at the same time salvage small grain yields.
The acting director of the migratory pest security department, Mr Shingirai Nyamutukwa, told farmers during a winter wheat training workshop at Combe Farm in Zvimba North constituency which was facilitated by Agritex on Wednesday that there were enough chemicals in stock.
“We have enough pesticides in stock to control quelea birds.
“The birds usually stay and roost in game parks which are controlled by Government and, currently we are having teams controlling the birds here in Mashonaland West and Central (Muzarabani) where they are heavily populated,” he said.
Serious control of the quelea birds this season is going to save the country from importing more wheat as was previously the norm. On average, each bird eats at least four grammes of wheat a day, while six more grams are destroyed by the same during its time in the field.
“As Government, we are equally worried like our farmers. We are targeting self-wheat sufficiency this year as we look inward for our problems and solutions. We cannot continue to import flour hence our department is going to do whatever it takes to eradicate the swarms to protect yield production,” said Mr Nyamutukwa.
He said control activities of the birds were being done in Mashonaland Central, Mashonaland West, Manicaland, and Matabeleland North provinces.
Mr Nyamutukwa added that while there has been a challenge to quelea birds on wheat and small grains, the introduction of winter wheat to small-scale farmers particularly in communal areas was also going to be affected by beetles and other pests that attack the crop.
“We have a target of 10 000 hectares of wheat from small-scale farmers who face a challenge of beetles and stem bora. We encourage manufacturing companies to produce more chemicals so that our winter wheat target is not affected.”
Farmers were discouraged from burning grass as a way of controlling the migration of quelea birds to wheat fields.
A call to seed-producing companies was also made for them to produce seed that repels to quelea birds.