The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has advised farmers and community members to take precautionary control measures to ensure early detection and effective control of Fall Armyworm (FAW) outbreak.
This follows the detection of larvae of the Fall Armyworm (FAW) in the Western Cape, near the Clanwilliam area. The pests were detected for the first time on sweetcorn in late March 2019.
The FAW moths were detected in several areas in the Western Cape between June and August in 2018.
"FAW is a quarantine pest in terms of the Control Measures Relating to Fall Armyworm R. 449 of 26 May 2017 of the Agricultural Pests Act of 1983 (Act No. 36 of 1983). It is therefore compulsory that any individual or organisation that has detected the FAW shall immediately report it to the nearest agricultural office and/or executive officer of the Act," the department said.
FAW preferentially attacks maize, sweetcorn and sorghum in South Africa, but it may feed on other crops in the vicinity if maize plants or its primary food source is not available.
The department said that FAW is currently present in all the provinces in South Africa and the level of FAW infestation varies locally in terms of the climate and host availability.
Farmers and community members are advised to take precautionary control measures such as scouting and trapping to ensure early detection and effective control of FAW.
"It is best to apply agricultural chemicals while the caterpillars are smaller than one centimetre long. Big caterpillars (over one cm) crawl deep into the leaf whorls of maize plants and that makes it difficult to reach them with agrochemical sprays.
"The main concern with this pest is that it can rapidly develop resistance to agrochemicals, thus rotating the agrochemicals within the cropping season according to resistance group and mode of action is highly recommended to avoid resistance," the department said.
Farmers and community members are encouraged to contact a chemical representative for advice on agrochemical control options and also do regular scouting for the FAW.