Monday, May 27, 2024

Rwanda: Maize Farmers Worry as Fall Armyworms Build Resistance Against Pesticides

Maize farmers across the country are worried as armyworms have built resistance to pesticides. This arises as the Agriculture Season 2024 A gains momentum — Season A typically commences in September.

Fall armyworm is an insect pest that feeds on more than 80 crop species, causing damage to cereals such as maize, rice, sorghum, legumes, among others.

Despite government interventions, farmers said the fall armyworms are building resistance to pesticides.

“There are three kinds of pesticides we use. But when we use these pesticides when armyworms have already attacked the maize crops on a vast scale, they resist. We have now decided to spray pesticides at early stages when the pests are not yet at vast scale in the maize plantations,” Evariste Tugirinshuti, the president of Rwanda Maize Farmer Cooperatives Federation told The New Times.

During Agriculture Season 2023 A, the impact of fall armyworms increased due to dry spells.

Some members of COOPROMASA –a cooperative that grows maize and soybeans in Gatsibo District — reported that they applied Rocket pesticide but the armyworms didn’t die.

According to Tugirinshuti, the pests resisted the pesticide yet it is one of the effective ones that farmers rely on.

Some farmers lost between 20 per cent and 40 per cent of the produce in the previous season.

“We are hopeful that with the rains, the impact might be minimal this season in Kirehe District although there are farmers who are already affected in some parts of the country,” he said.

A farmers’ cooperative, Twizamure Cyuve, which cultivates maize on 75 hectares in Cyuve sector, Musanze District, has also reported that their maize plantations have been attacked by fall armyworms.

“We planted maize seeds called Hybrid 628. The maize crops were healthy. But at the time of weeding, they were already attacked by armyworms. Leaves are already damaged. There is no optimism to get a good harvest. We need effective pesticides because the pests are resistant to the ones we use,” said Gloriose Nyirabariha, a farmer.

RAB explains armyworms’ resistance

According to the Rwanda Agriculture and Animal Resources Board (RAB) in Musanze District, an assessment has to be carried out on the existing pesticides.

Meanwhile, Athanase Hategekimana, in charge of combating crop diseases and pests at RAB, advised farmers “not to use one type of pesticide consecutively.”

“When farmers keep using one type of pesticide all the time consecutively, the fall armyworms end up resisting. Farmers should try using different types of pesticides by alternating them. If one type is used this season, next season they can change and use the other,” he explained.

He said good agriculture practices are currently needed on 260,000 hectares to be planted with maize across the country, adding that those capable can also use traps of armyworms.

In 2018, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) distributed pheromone traps and lures to farmers from the districts in Rwanda most affected by the Fall Armyworm (FAW).

The pheromone traps mostly target male moths because they are the ones responsible for reproduction through mating the female ones to produce larvae (or armyworm).

The traps reduce the male population and thus affect fall armyworm reproduction. The farmers have also been advised to use enough manure and chemical fertilisers to build resistance to crops.

Rwanda is also considering using biological control agents (parasitoids) that are insect predators, to effectively contain the fall armyworms that are ravaging maize crops across the country.

Fall armyworm was first detected in Central and Western Africa in early 2016 according to the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE).

In Rwanda, armyworm was suspected to be present in February 2017 in the Mushishito wetland in Nyamagabe District, and was confirmed the following month by the Ministry of Agriculture.