NEWS

First Drought, Now Armyworm -- SA's Maize Crops Could Be Devastated

South Africa's entire maize harvest is under threat by the worm, which also attacks sorghum, groundnuts, potatoes and soybeans.

06/02/2017 07:44 SAST | Updated 06/02/2017 07:45 SAST
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Armyworm larvae vary in color from dark greenish-brown to black. This varacious feeder is an agricultrue pest.

A "voracious" pest –- armyworm -– is threatening South Africa's farmlands and has already caused devastation on maize farms, according to a report in the Times.

The paper reported that the country's entire maize harvest is under threat by the worm, which also attacks sorghum, groundnuts, potatoes and soybeans.

The Times interviewed a farmer near Pretoria whose whole crop on her 100ha farm has been ruined by the armyworm.

The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has dispatched an emergency team to deal with the issue.

The department's spokesperson, Bomikazi Molapo told The Times that suppliers had been urged to apply for emergency registration of agricultural chemicals to be used on plants which could be affected by armyworm.

The Times quoted Gerhard Verdoorn from the Griffon Poison Information Centre, who said this was a "crisis" as it was the first time a pest had attacked the entire farming sector.

Farms, finally recovering from the drought after recent rainfall, now face complete devastation if the plague is not contained.

In January, The Times reported that the armyworm could break out in South Africa. Reportedly, the pest had moved South, jumping the equator after the first reports were confirmed in West and Central Africa. Burundi, Zambia, Zimbabwe and some parts of South Africa were reportedly being affected.

Crop Life SA told The Times that the country should be worried about a possible invasion.

At the time, Verdoorn warned that the worms could move thousands of kilometres a week.

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