Farm Preparation Techniques
In order to maintain high soil fertility, it is important to add manure or compost to the fields and fertilizer. This will ensure the plants grow strong in healthy soils and compensate for any Fall Armyworm crop damage.
There are certain birds and insects that eat Fall Armyworm caterpillars. Thus, it is important to grow trees, hedgerows, and other crops so as to increase predators/natural enemies that can reduce the impact of Fall Armyworm on the crops.
Guidelines on planting
- Make sure to plant at the start of rains to avoid the peak migration of Fall Army worm adult moths.
- Try as much as possible to avoid late or off-season planting and new maize crop near a field infested by fall army worms.
- The crop growth can be boosted by using optimum fertilizer application or manure to help it withstand pest infestation and damage.
- It is advisable to adhere to a regional planting schedule.
- Make sure to plant the crop during long rains and plant alternative crops during the short rains.
- Alternative crops include:- groundnut, beans, cowpeas, sweet and Irish potatoes. Farmers are discouraged from planting sorghum, millet and Napier grass as alternate crops as they are related to maize and also host fall army worms.
- Intercropping maize with legumes like beans, groundnuts, and soybeans can help reduce the spread of fall army worms. This will interrupt egg-laying of the moth and increase the diversity of natural enemies.
Crops mainly affected by fall army worms: Maize, sorghum, sugarcane, rice, millet, cotton, Napier grass, Rhodes grass, and capsicum. The adult fall army worm tends to fly over 100kilometer per year.
It is important to practice weeding and removing infested crop residues from the farm.
The garden should be prepared 1-2months before the onset of rains.
Deep plough your garden before planting to expose any Fall army worm pupae to the soil surface. In this way, they will be killed due to sun exposure and by other organisms.
Monitoring – is the deliberate effort of checking for the presence of fall army worm on maize crops growing in your farm/garden. It is important to monitor the maize crops frequently after germination for presence of the pest or signs/symptoms of damage.
Early detection of the pest allows quick and timely response that helps reduce damage to the crops and overall loss.
It is crucial to note that the fall army worm caterpillar attacks all stages of maize growth; seedlings, vegetative, tasseling and grain filling stages.
Monitoring should mainly be done early in the morning or late in the evening when the caterpillars are most active.
Steps to take:
- Start monitoring your garden two weeks after planting and continuously visit your garden every three days
- You should then walk through the maize garden in either a X, Zigzag or any other pattern while avoiding the edges of the garden.
- Randomly select 5 spots that are spread out in your garden. Carefully examine 10 maize plants at each spot for signs and symptoms on the newest 2-3 leaves, tassels and cob attentively. Fall army worms mainly hide inside the maize funnel during the day and mainly come out early in the morning and late in the evening.
- Record the number of affected maize crops at each of the five spots.
- If there is the presence of fall army worms, be sure to alert your neighbors and the agricultural extension officer in the area. You should then take the appropriate steps to control the pest.
- It is also vital to check the presence of fall army worms in alternate hosts such as sorghum, sugar cane, rice, millet and pasture grasses.
- Pheromone traps can also be used for monitoring the presence of fall army worm in the garden.
Community scouting and response
- When the whole community is involved its much better rather than just an individual farmer. This can be termed as an area wide approach that will enhance effective control of Fall Army worms.
- Scouting collectively together and applying effective control measures will help reduce the spread of fall army worms.
- This is why it is important to have farmers support groups/associations where farmers can share information for the right response measure.
Use of pheromone traps
- Pheromone traps are mainly used to complement field scouting especially on large farms.
- They are very effective and if you detect a fall army worm moth in the trap, be sure to check all your crops thoroughly for eggs or larvae (caterpillars).
- This should then prompt you to take the necessary step to control the pest accordingly.