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NARO Introduces New Chemical To Control Fall Armyworms

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By Patrick Okino

The National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO) is promoting a chemical to control and manage fall armyworms, a pest which attacks maize, millets, sorghum, rice and other cereal crops in the country.

The principal research officer and crops entomologist, Dr Michael Hillary Otim, said NARO conducted monitoring surveys and field demonstrations and found that bio-pesticides were effective in controlling the worms as well as being environmentally friendly.

This was during the farmers’ field day at Ngetta Zonal Agricultural Research and Development Institute in Lira city East division.

He said the worms were first reported in 2016 and a year later, they spread to all the maize-growing areas in the country.

The field day attracted maize growers in Ngetta ward and it was meant to showcase and benefits of bio-pesticides in integrated management of the fall armyworm and enable farmers to appreciate the performance of the technology.

Otim said the worms were causing a lot of damage to the maize and some minimal damage to sorghum.

He said, therefore, NARO had embarked on conducting research to find out how best to manage the pests.

According to the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), an estimated 450,000 tonnes of maize equivalent to $192m was lost as a result of fall armyworm outbreak during the first cropping season of 2017. This affected 3.6 million people.

“So, we studied its distribution and we have been testing different chemicals including biological control agents,” Otim said.

He said it had initially been recommended that the pesticide Rocket be used to control the worms but it was discovered to be very poisonous to the users and harmful to the environment.

“We decided to look for safer alternatives and get some from plants, including one from micro-organism such as enzymes,” he added.

Farmers advised

Allan Komakech, a researcher at Ngetta ZARDI, said the pesticides are mostly applied by spraying or drenching depending on the disease or pest being targeted. He urged farmers to adopt and use bio-pesticides since they are environmentally friendly and not harmful to humans.

Charles Opio Olol, the Lira city secretary of finance and administration, asked farmers to adapt the new farming technology if they are to fight abject poverty in the households.

He said farming is the foundation of economic transformation and farmers should shift from subsistence to commercial farming.

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