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Pests in SA maize ‘strongly suspected’ to generally be armyworms – scientist

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JOHANNESBURG – A larvae outbreak which contains damaged maize in South Africa’s Limpopo and North West provinces is “strongly suspected” to generally be the invasive armyworm that’s attacked crops in neighbouring countries, a scientist said on Monday.

The infestation of fall armyworms – an invasive Central American species that may be harder to detect and eradicate than its African counterpart – has erupted in Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi and follows a crippling El Nino-triggered drought which scorched the majority of the area not too long ago.

Countries with confirmed outbreaks can face import bans on the agricultural products considering that the armyworm is classed being a quarantine pest.

Johnnie van den Berg, an entomologist at South Africa’s North-West University who may have collected samples from affected farms, said taxonomic tests were completed for confirmation.

“It should be identified by a taxonomist but we strongly suspect oahu is the fall armyworm … Visually, it appears 100% the identical,” he told Reuters inside a phone interview.??

“It may be confirmed by the end of soon,” he said.

Van den Berg said coverage in South Africa has not been “blanket”, with outbreaks reported many kilometres (miles) apart in some places, but northern Limpopo province, bordering Zimbabwe, looks like it’s the epicentre.

The impact varies: some farms have obtained minimal leaf damage, others are actually devastated.

“On some farms, there has been 90% damage and the majority of the leaves are stripped on the plant. It looks like a row of broom sticks,” he stated.

South Africa is expected to get a maize surplus this holiday season after the deficit recently when 7.5 million tonnes of maize was produced against national need for 10.5 million tonnes.

Industry sources have said while an armyworm outbreak will be unlikely to push the crop into deficit it could possibly decrease the size the expected surplus.

“This fall armyworm is really a Central American pest. Wish to consider must do more research to observe where and how it establishes itself,” Van den Berg said.

He said the continental invasion began in July with outbreaks in Nigeria and Sao Tome and Principe. It remains unclear the actual way it jumped across the Atlantic.

But the moths is often carried long distances by wind and can have winged across central Africa because of this.

The moths lay eggs in maize plants and also the caterpillars were also proven to march en masse throughout the landscape – hence the name.

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