MEXICO CITY, Mexico (CIMMYT) – In a new blog published by Farming First, B.M. Prasanna, Director of the Global Maize Program and the CGIAR Research Program on Maize at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) discusses overcoming a pest that has been ravaging fields in Africa.
“Fall armyworm is one of the most destructive insect pests worldwide…In just under two years, the pest has devastated almost 1.5 million hectares of maize crops in 6 countries in Africa,” he said.
Prasanna advises that without proper management, over the next two years, “fall armyworm is expected to cause up to six billion dollars of damage across affected maize growing regions.”
With the rapid rise of this pest, some countries purchased highly toxic pesticides and started distributing these pesticides to people without proper personal protective equipment or an understanding of the potential danger.
“We must raise awareness among farming communities on how to make wise decisions on application of the right kind of pesticides at the right stage.”
In terms of immediate solutions, “There are many pesticides derived from naturally occurring bacteria and viruses that could be helpful. The capacity to quickly validate these options, scale them up and release them is extremely important”, he said.
“We are running a marathon here, not a 100-meter race. “
In terms of long-term solutions, “we are extensively testing maize and wheat varieties against the fall armyworm populations in Africa and we have some very promising sources of resistance which we will be validating very soon.”
“CIMMYT, in partnership with USAID and other collaborators, is working to produce a comprehensive manual on fall armyworm pest management in Africa which will be available in January.”
Prasanna emphasized, “there is a tremendous coordination effort that is required in the years to come in order to make these things happen,” but said that CIMMYT is ready to stand with others to beat this pest. With a unified and systematic approach, it can be done.