The Sunday News
Dumisani Nsingo, Senior Farming Reporter
GOVERNMENT is on high alert against an outbreak of a devastative worm which is destroying early planted crops threatening the country’s efforts of attaining optimum yields from the 2016/17 summer cropping season.
Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Deputy Minister Davis Marapira who is responsible for crop production and irrigation development said the Government was taking measures to eradicate the worm as well as preventing its spread to new areas.
The worm attacks cereal plants especially maize, sorghum and sugarcane from three-leaf stage and the central leaves show typical bullet-like holes and they leave behind horse manure-like droppings called frass on the leaves particularly the central whorl.
The damage includes holes on the stem causing significant stalk lodge, the cob and the tassels.
The outbreak of the worm is also a threat to Government’s Command Agriculture Programme which seeks the production of two million tonnes of maize on utilization of about 400 000 hectares.
“As Government we haven’t yet identified the pest thus we are not yet aware of its name some are saying it’s a Fall cut worm while others are saying it’s the Chilo worm but we are in the process of doing plant quarantine in affected areas. We have also sent officials to pick the worms for samples.
“We also have also advised our extension officers in all provinces to create awareness about and at the same time we are on the ground to positive identify the pest. However, we advise farmers to engage in precautionary elementary chemical applications following proper agro-chemical practices which they are suppose to do in any event,” said Dep Minister Marapira.
Department of Agricultural Technical and Extension Services (Agritex) Matabeleland North provincial officer Mr Dumisani Nyoni confirmed an outbreak of a devastative worm that has destroyed maize in a number of districts in the province.
“There is an outbreak of a devastative worm which is destroying the maize crop. The Ministry has sent a team to ascertain the type of the worm but we have had an outbreak of stalk borer which has affected 200 hectares of maize at Mary Ellen (Bubi district). It has also affected crops at Arda Jotsholo (Lupane district) and Anju Farm and surrounding farms (Umguza district),” said Mr Nyoni.
Matabeleland South Agritex provincial officer Mr Judia Ncube said the worm outbreak was still to reach his area of jurisdiction.
“Most farmers are yet to start cropping while some of the crop has just germinated and this cannot be affected because the worm affects three-leaf stage crops. We might have the outbreak later on but we don’t wish to have it,” said Mr Ncube.
Meanwhile Seed Co has successfully carried out trials of chemical options to prevent the destruction of maize and other cereal plants by Chilo worms.
In a statement last week, Seed Co technical services team said it was fighting hard to curb the spread of the worms.
“Seed Co, in conjuction with chemical companies and some entomologists has carried out some trials of several chemical options to curb the pest in Shamva, Mazowe and Matabeleland through Bioassays and commercial field trials.
“Some of the chemicals on the market that have worked to control the Chilo worm in the trials include Karate Zeon, Blast Super, Bulldock, Decis Forte, Fortis K, Coragen, Vantex, Trigger and Ampligo,” read part of the statement.