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Grain SA: 85% of SA's maize crop may survive armyworm

Preliminary reports indicate that so-called GMBT maize suppresses the feeding of the worm during the larvae phase of its life cycle, which should kill the pest.

An armyworm caterpillar eating the kernels of a cob of corn. Picture: AFP

JOHANNESBURG – Grain SA says that more than three-quarters of South Africa’s maize crops may be able to resist the fall armyworm, which has devastated crops in neighbouring countries which do not plant genetically modified seed.

The Agriculture Department confirmed on Monday that the pest has now been positively identified in parts of Limpopo and northern Gauteng.

The fall armyworm, which is native to South and North America, was first identified in North Africa a year ago and is believed to have migrated south.

Grain SA’s Jannie de Villiers says tests are being conducted to establish whether the genetically modified maize planted locally is able to resist the fall armyworm.

“Eighty-fiver percent of our crop is GMO. We have learned from our seed companies that when they register their GMOs in other countries, like Argentina and Brazil, they also register it as maize plants as having resistance to this particular pest.”

Eyewitness News has seen an Agricultural Research Council report which states that preliminary reports indicate that so-called GMBT maize suppresses the feeding of the worm during the larvae phase of its life cycle, which should kill the pest.

However, the report also notes that it will never be possible to eliminate the pest but rather managed to limit outbreaks and damage to crops.

LISTEN: small farmer tells of concern amid armyworm infestation

(Edited by Masechaba Sefularo)

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