Fri. Sep 25th, 2020

Supporting Farmers

Fall armyworm attacks Rwanda

5 min read

A maize infested by the fall armyworm in Rwanda. The spread of the pest has been controlled in this Agricultural season thanks to the early installation of pheromone traps and lures. ©FAO/Teopista Mutesi

Odoratte Mukarushema started cultivating Rushaya Marshland in Rushaya Marshland, Busasamana sector, Nyanza District, Southern Province, from 1998 growing all kinds of crops from maize to beans, soya, cassava, potatoes and vegetables.
The livelihood of the Ten-member Household of the 52 year old mother, relies on farming.
She belongs to “Icyerekezo Rushaya” group of farmers cultivating the marshland –they are about two hundred seventeen.
In 2014, farmers in Rushaya Marshland consolidated their land to grow a specific crop for each season. With the government introducing land consolidation program, farmers in Nyanza District began growing; Beans –in Agricultural season A (September – January), Season B ( February –June) Maize and Season C ( July – September) Vegetables.
First encounter with Fall Army Worm
Odoratte used to harvest at least 500 kilograms of maize every season from her twelve acres of land in the marshland but dwindled to 300 kilos due to Fall Army Worm invasion.
“At the beginning of last year, the government issued an announcement warning us about a rare maize eating worm, but when I inspected my maize I couldn’t see the said worm although their leaves were full of holes. At first I thought they were hailstorms that had torn them” says Odoratte.
She was alarmed when all the maize stalks had the same problem, she called the sector agronomist who later confirmed that the field has been invaded by the rare worm –identified to be Fall Army Worm.
They sprayed the maize with the pesticide at least five times in that Agricultural season B.
“During that season I lost income to buy scholastic materials for the Children,” Odoratte talks about the impact Fall Armyworm infestation caused her.
Understanding the enemy to keep the loss at a bay
February usually is the start of the Agricultural season B, they were going to grow Maize. FAO installed pheromone lures and traps in the fields affected by FAW on the same day they planted the maize. The new technology acts as an early warning mechanism. The male FAW are trapped trying to get to the pheromone-impregnated lure.
Female FAW produces between 1,500 – 2,000 eggs.
Thirty two traps were installed in the fifty twelve hectares, with a distance of 0.5 – 2 hectares between traps. The lures are changed every after three to five weeks. This is done by the farmer with the help of an agronomist.
“We visit the field once in two weeks. When I see the bottle bucket with the butterfly then we know there are female FAW around in the field. Farmers are then mobilized to hand pick the larvae and squash them and the few eggs found inside. We have picked two times only this season when we used to pick the larvae every day when the worm had just struck our fields,” says Odoratte.
Since the installation of the traps farmers have sprayed only twice and won’t spray again until the end of the season.
“Production in this season will be good because we fought fall armyworm early enough,” she says.
Agricultural experts say that spotting the pest when it is still at early stage larva is key to prevention.
Detecting the pest in Rwanda 
In Rwanda, fall armyworm was suspected to be present in February 2017 in the Mushishito Marshland in Nyamagabe District, and was confirmed the following month by the Ministry of Agriculture. By the end of April 2017, the outbreak had been reported in all 30 districts of the country and had infested an estimated 17,521 hectares of maize out of 46,403 planted.
The fall armyworm outbreak attacked 91.7 per cent of the maize and sorghum planted in Nyamagabe District, and 100% of the maize planted in Nyanza and Muhanga Districts. Due to limited research on fall armyworm, as well as limited systems which can detect the insect early and minimize its impact, the outbreak spread quickly.
On 23 March 2018, FAO launched two projects to support the Government of Rwanda to monitor and manage the fall armyworm pestilence, as well as develop early warning systems to mitigate future infestations. The pest was detected in Africa in 2016.
The Fall Armyworm app
All agronomists working with farmers affected by Fall Armyworm, under FAO project, have been given smartphones fully installed with the Fall Armyworm Monitoring and Early Warning System (Famews) application. They have been trained to use the app. They record information in the field such as, location, the number of male FAW caught by the trap, control measures used and, agricultural system practiced, among others.
Once an agronomist or extension workers Famews check the crops for infestation and uploads the required data, the app calculates infestation levels whether the worm is increasing or spreading less.
The data captured is transferred to a global web-based platform. It is then analyzed to give a real-time situation overview.
FAO is soon updating the app to provide additional functionality such as an offline advisory system that provides immediate guidance to the user, based on the collected data, and a tool that will use a mobile phone camera to determine the pest’s damage to the maize.
Source FAO

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