February 7, 2017 / 10:07 AM / 3 years ago

Zimbabwe says battling to control crop damage by armyworm pest

HARARE, Feb 7(Reuters) - Like some of its neighbours, Zimbabwe is fighting an outbreak of fall armyworms that threatens to cause extensive damage to the maize crop that was decimated by drought last year, an agriculture ministry official said on Tuesday.

The invasive Central American fall armyworm, is harder to detect and eradicate than its African counterpart and has a preference for maize, the staple crop in the region.

Zimbabwe will next week host an emergency meeting called by the Food and Agricultural Organization to shape a coordinated response to the armyworm threat in the region.

“You have to realise it has cycles, so when you control one cycle you need to control another one. But we are still managing it,” Godfrey Chikwenhere, the chief entomologist in the Ministry of Agriculture, said.

Chikwenhere said it was too early to determine the extent of crop damage or when the pest would be eradicated.

The fall armyworm outbreak follows a devastating El Nino-induced drought that scorched much of the region last year, hitting crop output and leaving millions in need of food aid.

Harare was working with other southern African nations like including South Africa, Malawi and Zambia, on how to control the pest, Chikwenhere said.

South Africa’s agriculture minister told local radio on Tuesday that he was convinced pesticides will be able to contain the outbreak of armyworms. (Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by James Macharia, Greg Mahlich)

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