Stakeholders have warned that the growing menace of the Fall Armyworm could derail government’s programme to boost agriculture production and to create jobs.
Speaking to the GNA on the sidelines of a two-day workshop organised by the Plant Protection and Regulatory Services Directorate (PPRSD) of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture and the Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International (CABI), stakeholders said a quick action was needed to stem the invasion and protect farmers’ livelihood.
The workshop, attended by participants from Ghana’s research institutions, government ministries, civil society, donor agencies, information services, the private sector and some international partners, was held to develop a short, medium and longer term response plan to the invasion.
Ghana and many other countries in Africa have recently been invaded by the Fall Armyworm (FAW), which is a native to the Americas and notoriously mobile, and attacks maize and a wide variety of other food crops and natural grasses.
In Ghana and neighbouring countries, the potential impact of the fall army worm is particularly high, due to the large areas of maize, rice and sorghum being grown.
Mr Ebenezer Aboagye, the Acting Director PPRSD, said the fall armyworm invasion was a national problem and that a strategy was needed to control it from wreaking havoc on production of maize and other cereals.
Although the Fall Armyworm feeds on many kinds of food, with a host range of more than 80 plant species, it prefers to feed on grassy plants, in particular economically important crops such as maize, millet, sorghum, rice, wheat, and sugarcane.
Other crops of major agricultural importance attacked by the pest include cowpea, peanut, potato, soybean, and cotton.
In Ghana, the caterpillar of the Fall Armyworm was first reported on maize in the Yilo Krobo Municipality of the Eastern Region in April, 2016 by a Plant doctor.
Initially farmers thought it was a new type of stem borer. However when it was not responding to the initial control measures, they started reporting to the Agriculture Extension staff.
By September, 2016, five months after the initial report of the FAW in the Eastern region, it had been reported in nine (Northern, Upper East, Upper West, Ashanti, Volta, Eastern, Brong Ahafo, Greater Accra and Central) regions out of the ten (10) regions of Ghana.
In March, 2017, FAW was reported from the Western Region, making the FAW to be present in all ten regions.
Mr Aboagye said there were fears that if action was not taken immediately as much as 80,000 hectares of farms could suffer devastation from the army worm invasion.
He said one characteristic of the FAW which made it difficult to control was that it hides in the whorl of the maize plant.
“There is the need to sensitise the public and establish a national surveillance system as well as a strategic stock for control of the outbreak,” he said.
Mr Aboagye said the Ministry of Agriculture was giving urgent attention to the situation and has written a cabinet memo for immediate action to be taken on it.
Dr Victor Clottey, Regional Coordinator CABI, said government’s policy initiatives in the agriculture sector could be threatened by the presence of the Armyworm.
He said a more comprehensive approach was required to tackle the invasion as reliance on one method could undermine efforts to manage the situation.
Dr Victor Clottey said a dependence on a chemical option could lead to the development of resistance and pollution.
He said a comprehensive plan that dealt with other moths attacks and structure to coordinate the deployment and monitoring of the management strategies would be key to efforts to control the invasion.
Julien Godwin, Programme manager, Invasive Species CABI, called for a three-prong approach to -managing the world’s worst pests and invasive species, prevention, early detection and rapid response, and control and restoration
There must also be multi-sectoral and multi-national systems approach as well as a partnership approach.
Roger Day, CABI Africa, said it was important to work on a regional response as the armyworm knows no boundaries.
Mrs Lydia Sasu, a producer, said government must urgently deal with the situation to protect livelihoods.