JUST IN: Centre promotes sustainable fall armyworm management

05 Mar, 2021 - 17:03 0 Views
JUST IN: Centre promotes sustainable fall armyworm management

The Herald

Munya Simango Correspondent
In response to the pest outbreaks that accompany the rainy season, the Matopos Agricultural Centre of Excellence (MACE) in partnership with the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) is on a drive to promote eco-friendly and sustainable push-pull techniques to control the spread of the fall armyworm (FAW) in Matobo and Insiza districts.

The initiative is supported by the European Union under the Zimbabwe Agricultural Knowledge and Innovation Services (ZAKIS) project.
ZAKIS head of the project Mr Waddilove Sansole said the farmer needs assessment that was carried out in 2019 identified crop pest and disease outbreaks as some of the major constraints in agricultural productivity in the small scale farming communities of Zimbabwe.

“The services that Agricultural Centres of Excellence provide are designed to ensure that education, research and extension services work in tandem to achieve improved productivity and profitability in farming communities.

“We are therefore promoting the eco-friendly push-pull technique to control fall armyworm as it allows farmers to sustainably control pest outbreaks and reduce the costs of production,” he said.

The FAW is a destructive pest that has been cited as a significant threat to food security and agricultural sustainability worldwide. In the absence of sound management, it causes huge crop losses in the main cereal crops such as maize and sorghum. With its origins in tropical and sub-tropical regions of America, it was first detected in Africa in 2016 and it has since spread to over 109 countries in Africa and Asia.

This Global threat is so serious that last year the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) launched the Global Action for Fall Armyworm Control. The action is designed to prevent the pest from spreading further and reverse infestation. It recommends use of practices that are environmentally-friendly and safe for humans.

Mr Sansole said, “The MACE initiative is in line with the technical guidelines and recommendations that were developed by FAO. These help decision makers, extension officers and farmers to implement national and local strategies to achieve the sustainable management of the fall armyworm.”

Commenting on the initiative, ICRISAT Zimbabwe country representative Dr Martin Moyo said, “The use of chemicals to control of fall armyworm is in most cases too expensive and not practical for small-scale farmers. It also has negative effects on human health and on biodiversity. That is why we are working to motivate farmers to use the affordable and sustainable push-pull technology.

“The push–pull technology involves the intercropping of maize or sorghum with plants that repel pests (push plants) and planting of plants around the perimeter of the field that lure/trap pests (pull plants). Examples of pull plants include napier and bana grass; while push plants include legume crops such as jackbean, lablab, cowpeas, velvet bean as well as pigeon pea.”

He added that the push–pull technology has additional benefits that include soil-fertility enhancement from nitrogen fixation by the legumes and improved livestock productivity as farmers feed their cattle and goats with the forage legumes that are used in the intercropping.

Under the initiative, which is targeted at reaching out to more than 5000 farming households, MACE helped farmers to establish 50 demonstration sites in 10 wards across both Insiza and Matobo districts.

“Matopos Research Institute provided bana grass cuttings and lablab seeds to farmers and our teams will be monitoring the fields every fortnight to collect data on the efficacy of using the push-pull technology to combat FAW. We will then produce a comprehensive report at the end of the season,” said Dr Moyo.

MACE is one of six Agricultural Centres of Excellence (ACEs) that were established in partnership with the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement under the ZAKIS project.

They are farmer-centric and inclusive multi-stakeholder institutions which bring together farmers and agriculture value chain players for the sharing of up-to-date agricultural knowledge, promotion of innovations and market linkages, as well as for harmonising the delivery of research, education and extension services to farmers.

Other centres are located at Chibero Agricultural College, Matobo, Insiza, Mhondoro-Ngezi and Chegutu.

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