Armyworm outbreak on maize still on increase, expert warns

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Dr Oluwakemi Odeyemi of the Institute of Agricultural Research & Training (IAR&T), Ibadan, has warned farmers against armyworm outbreak on maize.

Odeyemi, Head of Maize Improvement Programme for Southern Ecology, IAR&T, gave the warning in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Ibadan on Wednesday.

He said that armyworm outbreak on maize, which incurred in 2016 led to 90 per cent loss to farmers, is still on the increase.

Odeyemi, an entomologist said more than 90 per cent of maize fields visited in 2017 had more than 80 per cent infestation of the pest.

She added that the outbreak was a great threat to national food security and livelihood of farmers.

The entomologist noted that the pest, Spodoptera frugiperda (Smith), was first noticed on some maize fields in Ibadan by Ogun State Agricultural Development Programme (ADP) office and other farmers.

Odeyemi remarked that activity of the pest was insidious and its presence was often noticed only after the havoc was done.

“The pest is known to be capable of causing severe damage by feeding on the foliage of suitable crop, leading to heavy skeletonization and defoliation.

“Leaves of heavily infested maize usually appear ragged; maize tassels, cobs are also attacked under severe infestation.

“Young larvae are usually green in colour and feed deep inside the whorl of maize plant while older larvae are usually brown,” she said.

She emphasised that in a quick response to the outbreak, an urgent survey was carried out by IAR&T scientists to know the spread of the pest and find possible control measures.

According to her, the institute swung into action, organised sensitisation workshop for the farmers, ADP officers and other relevant stakeholders in affected states.

“Information about the pest and possible control measures were also spread through print, radio, TV media; training were also organised for maize farmers.

“While other control means are underway, these insecticides were found effective: Lambdacyhalothrin + Chlorantraniliprole (Ampligo) and Emamectin Benzoate based insecticides and Tihan,” Odeyemi said.

She urged the government to support farmers by providing control subsidy for them, stressing that their farms should be insured.

“The prize of the insecticides used in controlling such pests should be subsidised to help the farmers,” she said.

Odeyemi further advised farmers not to be discouraged in planting maize with the pest infestation, pointing out that maize is an important economic crop which forms major component in the daily diet.

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