The Coordinator, Fall Armyworm project Mr Adeleke Mufutau, says the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development is determined to tackle Fall Armyworm invasion of maize farms across the country.
Mufutau gave the assurance at the Bayer Nigeria Maize Conference in Abuja on Wednesday.
He recalled that the Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh, held an emergency meeting with the commissioners of agriculture from the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), when the first case of armyworm infestation was reported.
He said that the minister also gave a directive to the relevant stakeholders to create awareness among farmers on how to fight and control the pest, adding that the ministry had made appreciable progress in its efforts to sensitise farmers to issues relating to the pest.
Mufutau said that the ministry was also collaborating with the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), through a project known as Integrated Pest Management, in the fight against fall armyworm in the country.
“The campaign has been successful because we have identified the affected states, which total 22, and out of these states; we were able to take 12 states in the pilot stage of the project.
“We have involved all farmers in this project. We are training extension officers, we are providing inputs for farmers and we have set up demonstration farms to show them how things should be done.
“We have covered all the states in the South and North. In the next two weeks, we will be stepping down the training to farmers to involve them.
“Our mission in the ministry is to partner with all stakeholders as regards maize production, processing, marketing — all aspects of maize production.
“Once some stakeholders identify with the ministry, we partner with them. The sole aim is to achieve food security for the country,’’ he said.
Mufutau, nonetheless, advised farmers against buying herbicides from merchants by the roadside, noting the rising incidence of adulterated or fake herbicides and chemicals across the country.
“We in the ministry are aware of reported cases of some herbicides not working. There are cases of product adulteration; there are cases of fake herbicides and other chemicals.
“We, therefore, advise farmers to patronise known herbicide manufacturers or the distributors that the manufacturers have assigned to sell their products.
“I am recommending the Bayer product because farmers who used it have testified that the product is working. The company has made it clear that you have to follow all the stated procedures in order to achieve the maximum results.
“The possibility of procuring fake or adulterated products by roadside is very high. The ministry has been active in this campaign and we are also supporting farmers in the area of chemical inputs with about 50 per cent subsidy.
“The chemicals we are supplying under the programme are high-quality products, directly procured from the manufactures or distributors. If farmers approach the ministry, through their associations or cooperatives, the ministry is always ready to assist,’’ Mufutau added.
Dr Hassan Hamidu, a lecturer at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, while presenting a paper on “Fall Armyworm and Maize’’, said that the pest has caused colossal losses to farmers by destroying their crops and livelihoods.
He said that the pest, which previously affected maize farms in the Americas, had spread to the African continent lately.
“The recent discovery of fall armyworm in Africa will constitute a huge threat to food security and trade in the region.
“The caterpillar destroys young maize plants, attacking their growing points and burrowing into the cobs.
“It displays a very wide host range, with over 80 plants recorded, but clearly prefers grasses. The most frequently consumed plants are field corn and sweet corn, sorghum, Bermuda grass and grass weeds such as crabgrass (digitaria spp).’’
Hamidu said that some insecticides were usually applied to maize plants to protect them against fall armyworm infestation, adding, however, that the pest had developed some resistance to the potency of the insecticides in some regions.