Tackling fall armyworm with sustainable control practices

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Typically looking like a small caterpillar growing up to 5 cms in length, the fall armyworm (FAW, Spodoptera frugiperda) is usually green or brown in color with an inverted “Y” marking on the head and a series of black dots along the backs. Thriving in warm and humid conditions, it feeds on a wide range of crops including maize, posing a significant challenge to food security, if left unmanaged. The fall armyworm is an invasive crop pest that continues to wreak havoc in most farming communities across Africa.

The first FAW attack in Zimbabwe was recorded around 2016. With a high preference for maize, yield losses for Zimbabwe smallholder farmers are estimated at US$32 million. It has triggered widespread concern among farmers and the global food system as it destroyed large tracts of land with maize crops, which is a key staple and source of farmer livelihood in southern Africa. The speed and extent of the infestation caught farmers and authorities unprepared, leading to significant crop losses and food insecurity.

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