Dr Victor Clottey, the Regional Coordinator of the Centre for Agriculture International (CABI), has called for a more diversified means of controlling the invasion of the fall armyworm as reliance on chemicals alone could undermine efforts to manage the situation.
Speaking at the Ghana National Learning Alliance Symposium, Dr Clottey said depending solely on a chemical option could lead to the development of resistance, pollution of the environment and increase in the economic and social cost of control.
“We have to rethink the extensive use of chemicals in managing the fall armyworm situation and explore other possible options that will give us the results,” he said.
The symposium, on the theme: “Excessive Use of Chemicals in the Management of Fall Armyworm: Implications on Sustainable Agricultural Intensification in Ghana,” brought together key stakeholders and experts in the agricultural sector for an experiential, technical and academic deliberation.
It aims to generate appropriate policy actions for a more practical and sustainable approach to handling the fall armyworm epidemic in Ghana.
Dr Clottey said the fact that farmers had to rely on pesticides meant for the control of other pests to fight the worm, as there were no pesticides registered against it in the country, made resistance development a high possibility.
“The pest is known to build resistance quickly to pesticides and our actions in the past year increased the danger of development of resistance to some active ingredients in the pesticides we use in our agricultural production,” he said.
While farmers could not do away with agro-chemicals in sustainable agricultural intensification, Dr Clottey said the use of other means such as seed treatment with systemic insecticide could help in protecting the crops and allow the build up of natural enemies to fight invasions.
Biological methods could also be used to disrupt the maturity and the population of the invading pest.
Dr Clottey said an all-inclusive plan that dealt with other moths attacks and structure to coordinate the deployment and monitoring of the management strategies would be key to efforts at controlling the invasion.
In Ghana, all 10 regions have reported the infestation of the caterpillars. It attacks all developmental stages of cereal plants, especially maize, and a wide variety of other food crops and natural grasses.
As at April 2017, the projected economic loss at the end of the year due to this fall armyworm infestation is about 164 million dollars for maize and sorghum only.
“This estimate does not include losses anticipated on over 80 other crops that this pest is known to attack,” he said.
We also have to contend with shortfalls in seed stock of our main agricultural crops in 2018 due to anticipated damage to seed farms this year.
Dr Micahel Osei, a Researcher, said there was the need to move away from blanket applications of pesticides to an integrated pest management.
He said in the control of the fall armyworm, most farmers at the national level were engaged in trial and error as actions taken to fight it were based on personal decisions and not scientific evidence.
Stakeholders at the meeting agreed that there was the need to explore other means of control, including indigenous knowledge to be able to fight the growing menace.