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SA confirms presence of fall armyworm

The Agriculture Department says tests have positively identified that the fall armyworm has infiltrated crops in SA for the first time.

An armyworm. Picture: Pixabay.com.

JOHANNESBURG - The Agriculture Department says tests have positively identified that the fall armyworm, which originates from Brazil, has infiltrated crops in South Africa for the first time.

The worm is a quarantine pest which has the potential to affect crops such as maize, sorghum, soy-beans and potatoes.

Last month, farmers in Limpopo, North West and Free State reported the destructive caterpillar, adding further strain since the beginning of the drought.

Earlier, some in the agriculture sector spoke of the severe impact the caterpillar could have on food security and the impact on the South African economy.

The Agriculture Department says the damage that has been reported so far has been for yellow maize varieties like sweetcorn and maize planted for seed production.

Spokesperson Bomikazi Molapo says: “What we call an Emergency Plant Pest Response plan, has already been set in motion. The action plan depends on the pest, the extent of the spread and the extent of the damage it would cause.”

The fall armyworm is also a good flyer which makes it difficult to contain to a specific area.

From next week, the department says it will be approving various products that need to be brought into the country to deal with the pest as it’s been detected in South Africa for the first time.

(Edited by Zamangwane Shange)