Fight against the Fall Armyworm: it’s not over until it’s over

Scientists continue to support farmers in addressing the devastating Fall Armyworm almost 6 years since its first report in Uganda. Despite various efforts to reduce its impact in the country, the pest is still ravaging farmers’ maize fields causing vast and significant yield losses.

As research to identify biological control options and more resilient maize varieties advances, efforts to strengthen the capacity of farmers to control and manage it with the available options have been sustained.

From 4th–9th September 2022, close to 200 farmer leaders were trained in in fall armyworm control and management using cultural, mechanical and synthetic chemical methods. The maize research team identified a selection of farmer leaders 3 districts i.e., Nakaseke, Arua and Kagadi and engaged them in intensive trainings on proper identification of the pest, recommended control methods and safe use of pesticides. The trainings were complemented with 6 radio talks shows on Seke FM, Dunamis FM, CBS FM Arua One, Radio Pacis, Pakwach FM, BBS radio, Spice FM, and Kagadi Community Radio.

Ssali Ibrahim, a 57-year-old farmer in Nakaseke-Kito sub-county confessed that himself and the farmers around him were still losing yields to fall armyworm infestations due to lack of knowledge. “Last season I planted five acres and lost a lot of it to that pest. I now realize I did not spray well,” he confirmed. He represents a host of farmers still grappling to get hold of the complexities around effective management of the pest such as early identification, scouting, early intervention and poor use of chemicals. Meanwhile, maize scientists have identified several natural enemies/biological control agents including species of wasps and flies that eat fall armyworm. According to Dr. Otim Michael, an Entomologist-Principle Research Officer at NaCRRI, they have also identified some diseases and worms that attack FAW. “Two strains of a disease that attacks FAW have been tested and registered by MAAIF for use by farmers and are multiplying and distributing wasps that eat the FAW eggs to different regions,” he says.

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