Katima Mulilo – Farmers in Zambezi Region have been put on alert after complaints were lodged concerning African maize stalk borers that thrive in humid conditions.
Farmers have complained about several incidents of some crop fields being invaded by stalk borers that have attacked their crops at an early stage of growth.
Damage is caused when these worms in their caterpillar stage initially first feed on young leaves and eventually enter into the maize stems.
During the early stage of crop growth, the caterpillars may kill the growing points of the plant, causing what is known as dead heart where the youngest leaves can easily be pulled off.
The director in the agriculture ministry in Zambezi, Matheus Mushabati, confirmed his office received complaints from farmers.
“We received two complaints from farmers and we requested them to bring samples of the soil. One farmer brought a sample and we tested it and found that it was the African stalk borer, and our technicians attended to the situation,” said Mushabati.
He added that the other farmer did not bring back the soil sample as “the worms had disappeared”.
Mushabati stressed that people should not be alarmed, as according to him apart from those two complaints they haven’t received further complaints and that the invasion of crops appeared to have been isolated.
“There is nothing serious to worry about and people should not be alarmed. Our technicians are always ready to attend to any complaints, and we have been encouraging farmers to report to technicians should they encounter any problem,” said Mushabati.
However, one of the Zambezi Region’s well-known maize farmers Lennox Kulobone pointed out that his maize is also at an early stage of growth and has also been attacked by the African stalk borer.
Kulobone had initially told New Era he had not experienced the problem, however he had not gone to his field in days as he was busy ploughing elsewhere. He however later called to inform New Era that his field was also under attack from the worms.
“It has become a problem and we need the ministry of agriculture to come and help us,” pleaded Kulobone.
Following good rains in the months of December and January, farmers have grasped the opportunity to start ploughing and planting maize with the hope of having a good harvest. Kulobone however is of the opinion that there are various factors that might serve as setbacks.
“We are very thankful for the rains but one major setback we are facing is that the seeds are very expensive – 10kg is going at about N$560 at Kamunu, which is too expensive. Which means if you have a lot of hectares you will have to spend a lot. As a result some of us will not plough all our fields,” said Kulobone.
He added that while they are thankful for the good rains there are also challenges when it rains too much.
“When it rains too much it means there will be a lot of weeds in the fields, and we will have to spend a lot on paying people to come and do the weeding,” elaborated Kulobone.
The Etunda Agricultural Project in Omusati has also experienced an outbreak of so-called American bollworms.