The Sunday News
Munyaradzi Musiiwa, Midlands Correspondent
AN African armyworm outbreak has been reported in the Midlands Province, threatening some of the crops that had begun to recover following rains over the past weeks.
The deadly caterpillar has affected Mberengwa, Shurugwi, Zvishavane and Gweru districts. Officials said Mberengwa is the most affected where it has destroyed more than 45 hectares in one ward.
African armyworm is a migrant caterpillar of the night-flying moth Spodoptera exempta, and is a major crop pest which also affects pastures and animals.
The caterpillars occur in high numbers and travel in masses from one field to another in search of food. African armyworm affects pastures and leaves a poisonous substance which affects animals as well.
Symptoms in livestock are that the swallowing of affected cattle is paralysed, appearance of large “strings” of watery saliva drooling from the mouth, and animals exhibit an apparent severe thirst.
Slight symptoms of bloat, grinding of teeth, and nervous twitching may occur.
Midlands Crop and Livestock provincial officer Mrs Madeline Magwenzi said the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement has responded swiftly by dispatching teams with plant protection chemicals.
“We have an outbreak of African armyworm in the province. The worm has affected Mberengwa, Shurugwi, Zvishavane and Gweru districts.
We have sent a team on the ground to assess the situation, we are yet to come up with the total hectarage affected.
Most of the worm is still in the grazing land. Reports that I have received so far are that in Mberengwa in Wanezi area the worm has destroyed 45 hectares.
“African armyworm is a notifiable pest and once its observed farmers are supposed to inform their extension officers. So far Government has sent a team with plant protection chemicals that would be distributed in affected areas,” she said.
Mrs Magwenzi said most of the crop on dry land in the province was now a write-off and most farmers are replanting. She said most crops that survived are under irrigation.