Invasion of fall armyworms ravages crops in 20 African countries

mossyman

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Insect to cause $3bn damage to maize in next 12 months and serious food shortages

An invasion of fall armyworms from the Americas has ravaged crops across more than 20 African countries, putting hundreds of millions of people at risk of hunger.

Experts warned this week that the continent will struggle to contain the threat posed by the 3.4cm caterpillars that have no known effective predator.

“This is science fiction turned fact,” said Boddupalli Prasanna, a director at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center. “The fall armyworm is much more evil than other [pests] because I don’t think it can be eliminated. Meanwhile, the range of options available to tackle it are limited and the cost of these options is expensive.” 

The fall armyworm is native to the Americas and survives in temperatures above 10 degrees Celsius. It is named after the time of year it does most damage — autumn — and its feeding habits; after devouring a crop the whole “army” advances.

It feeds on 80 different plant species but the most prevalent strain eats maize, which is the staple of 200m people in sub-Saharan Africa. About 300,000 hectares across the region have already been ravaged.

Roger Day, at the Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International, estimated the fall armyworm would cause damage worth about $3bn to Africa’s maize crop over the next 12 months.

Unless the insects advance is contained there is a risk of “further spread into Europe via the Mediterranean basin and Asia through the Middle East is almost certain”, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation warned in a report. 

“The most likely scenario is that it’s going to spread both geographically and in intensity,” said Lewis Hove, a crop resilience expert at the FAO. “The infestation rate [in crops] is usually around 80 per cent but in some areas it is 100 per cent.” 



Scientists believe the fall armyworm arrived in Africa in a shipment of maize. It was first detected on the continent in west Africa in January 2016. A year later, it was in southern Africa and it has since swept north, with some moths flying up to 100km a day. It has recently been reported as far north as Ethiopia. 

Unless sprayed with effective insecticides quickly after initial detection, the fall armyworm becomes extremely hard to contain. 

Each adult moth lays up to 2,000 eggs during its two-week life, usually in batches of 100-200 on immature maize plants. Newly-hatched larvae often tunnel directly into maize before crawling to the ground to pupate. 

Michael Otiwi, a researcher at Uganda’s National Agricultural Research Organisation, said African farmers are becoming increasingly desperate as the insect proves resistant to most chemicals. 

“Recommended doses of insecticides are not sufficient so farmers are using double or even triple,” he said. “But these don’t work usually and pose serious issues for the safety of the users and the environment.” 



An extensive drought that has affected large swaths of sub-Saharan Africa for much of the last year has exacerbated the situation as it creates the prolonged hot, dry conditions in which the armyworm thrives. 

Experts at a conference of Nairobi this week said the only major crop that appeared to be able to resist the pest is cassava, probably because it produces cyanide. 

Joe DeVries, vice-president of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, said it was difficult to estimate the cost of trying to contain the fall armyworm in Africa, but added that the $600m Brazil spends on containment annually “is a good benchmark”. 

Mr Prasanna said the aim of the Nairobi conference was to find solutions to tackle the armyworm in both the short, medium and long term. Developing resistant strains of maize is likely to take at least four years, he said. 

One of the ways the US has been able to mitigate the armyworm’s impact is through the use of genetically-modified maize, but this is rarely planted in sub-Saharan Africa, where there is widespread opposition to such crops. 
https://www.ft.com/content/93222f52-2b46-11e7-9ec8-168383da43b7
 
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Catalpast

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willow68

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silverharp

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Perhaps Minister Zappone can arrange for us to take a couple of hundred in?

- its the least we can do....:cool:
the armyworm probably wouldnt like our climate
 

cunnyfunt

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One would have to be a conspiracy theorist to suspect how this crop destroying monster ever got to be introduced to Africa....but I am sure there is a reasonable explanation. Thanks for posting this.
More western supremacy and bad bad merica foreign invasions me thinks..
 

ger12

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The implications of this are desperate.
 

mossyman

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Africa is definitely heading for serious trouble, its population is projected to increase by 2.5 times by 2050 and with climate change causing more extreme weather events and droughts it is possible whatever progress has been achieved under the millennial goals will be reversed. Higher temperatures will create ideal conditions for crop pests and mosquitoes as we see in the thread title. There is also poor government and Islamic extremism to factor in.
 

willow68

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This is awful. Going to be huge loss of life and damage to the environment as a result.
In the last paragraph lies the crux of the issue...GMO crops are resistant to the bug. I'd be a shlemiel if I thought Monsanto were in any way involved whatsoever....but I suppose the farmers will not be given any other choice ...
 

Clanrickard

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Africa is definitely heading for serious trouble, its population is projected to increase by 2.5 times by 2050 and with climate change causing more extreme weather events and droughts it is possible whatever progress has been achieved under the millennial goals will be reversed. Higher temperatures will create ideal conditions for crop pests and mosquitoes as we see in the thread title. There is also poor government and Islamic extremism to factor in.
What is badly needed is urgent family planning to cut down the fertility rate and massive economic incentives. Africa is doing quite well in some respects but I think needs an African EU to pull them out of the hole some parts are in.
 

ger12

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Africa is definitely heading for serious trouble, its population is projected to increase by 2.5 times by 2050 and with climate change causing more extreme weather events and droughts it is possible whatever progress has been achieved under the millennial goals will be reversed. Higher temperatures will create ideal conditions for crop pests and mosquitoes as we see in the thread title. There is also poor government and Islamic extremism to factor in.
It's a continent raped and pillaged by Europeans and Americans in the past. The very least we can do is mobilise to assist in any way we can (if invited to by African nations).
 

stopdoingstuff

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It's a continent raped and pillaged by Europeans and Americans in the past. The very least we can do is mobilise to assist in any way we can (if invited to by African nations).
It is a gift we should make mainly in the form of aid.
 

GDPR

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This is potentially very serious - a lot of the countries affected have very unstable govts and a rising threat from rebels not necessarily Islamic. What happens when a basic crop fails is that people converge on the cities, looking for food handouts, and that leads to over-crowding, criminalisation and radicalisation, in many instances. Kenya is probably the most secure of the countries on that map, and it would become a target for population movement.
 

razorblade

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Reduced child birth rates in Africa are now essentially for long term sustainability.
 

Gaston

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Reduced child birth rates in Africa are now essential for long term sustainability.
This has been the case for decades, but nothing including constant wars & famine has barely dented the exponential population growth there. Something will inevitably give; as mother nature is a right bitch when she is challenged.
 

storybud1

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It's a continent raped and pillaged by Europeans and Americans in the past. The very least we can do is mobilise to assist in any way we can (if invited to by African nations).
Off you go, it certainly wasn't raped and pillaged by Irish people, it certainly needs more democracy and proper planning given the scale of the population stats that are off the charts.

How much longer will this resource rich continent take to cop on that it must get its house in order and given all the free first world science, aid and knowledge thrown at it nothing seems to work long term.

African slavers abducted the best slaves for the European slavers, African dictators/warlords starve and murder their own poor people, stop fooking around fake guilt , that ship sailed long ago.
 

effer

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This has been the case for decades, but nothing including constant wars & famine has barely dented the exponential population growth there. Something will inevitably give; as mother nature is a right bitch when she is challenged.
Our European haven?
 


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