18 May 2017

Nigeria: Army Worms Invade Maize Farms in Benue, Abuja

Makurdi — Farmers in Benue State are worried as army worms wreak havoc on newly cultivated maize farms across the state.

Similar incident is being experienced in some parts of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) as farmers are recording isolated cases of armyworms attacks, which affected some farms particularly farms at the outskirt of Bwari Area Council.

Farmers within the Gurara Irrigation Project-a Federal Government irrigation project managed by the federal ministry of water resources have been struggling to contain the disease since January this year.

Musa Adamu, who manages five hectares of maize farm in the site, said they have been struggling to keep the disease afar, adding that the farm where they harvested maize in April was severely affected as the tonnage was low.

However, Daily Trust's enquiry in Kano, Kaduna, Katsina and parts of Niger states show that farmers have not experience the attacks of recent.

In Benue State, Daily Trust reports that maize farmers in the state are yet to recover losses from infestation of their produce during last year's harvest occasioned by the stem, stalk and leaves eating worms that ravaged entire farms.

Now, the same challenge has surfaced on the plant but much earlier this year and in higher magnitude than any of the farmers could have anticipated. Most of the maize farms were planted barely five weeks ago.

Our correspondent spoke to Phillip Audu, who was spraying his four weeks old maize farm behind the College of Arts and Science at North Bank in Makurdi.

Audu lamented that his maize farm has already been completely infested with the worms and that he may lose everything in spite of the chemical he applied.

"I have to start spraying now because it is already affecting the maize. The worms are eating right inside the stems and the leaves of the young plant which is just a month old. I need to spray chemicals on the farm at least three times before harvest, if at all I'm lucky to succeed," Audu said.

Another maize farmer, Vitalis Ternongo, had observed his crops threatened by the worms just few days after they started to germinate so he sprayed the one and half hectare of maize farm when it was two weeks old.

He said he foresaw that the problem of army worms which destroyed his harvest last year would reoccur and so prepared to tackle the menace from its infancy stage by spraying the farm two weeks after planting.

Ternongo added that he would repeat the spray again after 10 days and do it for the third time a month later before the maize would be due for harvest in 45 days.

"The specie of maize I planted would be due for harvest in 45 days not the normal 90 days stuff. Besides, the seeds I planted were treated and not just gotten from the market so I'm certain that the level of destruction last year wouldn't happen to me again this year," he said.

Though, Ternongo worried that the extra care taken on the farm would increase cost of production, he explained that if he sprayed chemical worth N4,000 to carry out the first stage, what will be the fate of peasant farmers in the rural areas who might not have such money.

He, therefore, called on government at all levels to quickly come to the aid of the farmers as the infestation was spreading like wild fire in the state such that other crops and even grasses have been overtaken by the destructive worms.

Other respondents cutting across the three senatorial districts of the state have also raised similar concerns about the return of the ravaging worm eating up their newly planted crops.

A farmer in Otukpo area of the state, Mr. Okpe Okope, noted that due to late rainfall this year, he planted his maize only two weeks ago but that sadly, the plants are infested with the worms. He expressed further worries over the prediction of the metrological agency that the state would likely experience low rainfall this year.

He said, "It means that hunger looms later this year because as we speak, the worms are eating up grasses so what would be the chances of crops surviving against the low rainfall predicted."

In the same vein, Terhile Jacob, whose maize farm is located in Guma area of the state, confirmed that worms were eating up his farm but he is blaming the state government for not doing the needful to forestall a repeat of last year's experience.

For Jacob, last year's destruction caused by army worms on maize farms was just a tip of the iceberg compared to what is happening to farms at the moment and warned that government must step up as fast as it could or risk food crisis by next year.

Meanwhile, the Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, James Anbua, has confirmed the pest attacks to Daily Trust, saying there is fear that the army worms would also infest rice farms.

To this end, Anbua has urged farmers from all the 23 local government areas of the state to immediately get in contact with the ministry and obtain chemicals to contain the pests.

"This year's worm attack on farms is worse than last year's. What we are confronted with now is multiplication of the worms. We have the chemicals so farmers should come to the agriculture ministry to get them," the commissioner added.

Daily Trust recalls that the Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS) visited the state last year as a result of the epidemic during which it confirmed 100 percent infestation of army worms on maize farms in the three senatorial districts of state.

Head of the NAQS delegation to the state, Acting Director, John Ogbaje, while briefing the agric commissioner on his team's findings in Makurdi, said that maize farms visited were suspected to have been infested with foreign pests known as army worms.

Ogbaje had ruled out an earlier suspicion of stem-borer attack, insisting on army worms' infestation in all the farms visited in all zones in the state.

He said the team suspected 90 percent of army worms and just 10 percent of stem-borer.

A plant breeder in the College of Agronomy, Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi (UAM), Dr. Lucky Omoigui, had in an earlier interview with our correspondent in Makurdi, advised farmers to spray their plants with chemicals at its early stage in order to mitigate the disease, warning that doing so at a later stage would be too late to achieve good harvest.

of production, he explained that if he sprayed chemical worth N4,000 to carry out the first stage, what will be the fate of peasant farmers in the rural areas who might not have such money.

He, therefore, called on government at all levels to quickly come to the aid of the farmers as the infestation was spreading like wild fire in the state such that other crops and even grasses have been overtaken by the destructive worms.

Other respondents cutting across the three senatorial districts of the state have also raised similar concerns about the return of the ravaging worm eating up their newly planted crops.

A farmer in Otukpo area of the state, Mr. Okpe Okope, noted that due to late rainfall this year, he planted his maize only two weeks ago but that sadly, the plants are infested with the worms. He expressed further worries over the prediction of the metrological agency that the state would likely experience low rainfall this year.

He said, "It means that hunger looms later this year because as we speak, the worms are eating up grasses so what would be the chances of crops surviving against the low rainfall predicted."

In the same vein, Terhile Jacob, whose maize farm is located in Guma area of the state, confirmed that worms were eating up his farm but he is blaming the state government for not doing the needful to forestall a repeat of last year's experience.

For Jacob, last year's destruction caused by army worms on maize farms was just a tip of the iceberg compared to what is happening to farms at the moment and warned that government must step up as fast as it could or risk food crisis by next year.

Meanwhile, the Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, James Anbua, has confirmed the pest attacks to Daily Trust, saying there is fear that the army worms would also infest rice farms.

To this end, Anbua has urged farmers from all the 23 local government areas of the state to immediately get in contact with the ministry and obtain chemicals to contain the pests.

"This year's worm attack on farms is worse than last year's. What we are confronted with now is multiplication of the worms. We have the chemicals so farmers should come to the agriculture ministry to get them," the commissioner added.

Daily Trust recalls that the Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS) visited the state last year as a result of the epidemic during which it confirmed 100 percent infestation of army worms on maize farms in the three senatorial districts of state.

Head of the NAQS delegation to the state, Acting Director, John Ogbaje, while briefing the agric commissioner on his team's findings in Makurdi, said that maize farms visited were suspected to have been infested with foreign pests known as army worms.

Ogbaje had ruled out an earlier suspicion of stem-borer attack, insisting on army worms' infestation in all the farms visited in all zones in the state.

He said the team suspected 90 percent of army worms and just 10 percent of stem-borer.

A plant breeder in the College of Agronomy, Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi (UAM), Dr. Lucky Omoigui, had in an earlier interview with our correspondent in Makurdi, advised farmers to spray their plants with chemicals at its early stage in order to mitigate the disease, warning that doing so at a later stage would be too late to achieve good harvest.

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