African army worm outbreak may be over

Dr Gerhard Verdoorn, head of the Griffon Poison Information Centre, said that the recent outbreak of African army worm was the worst experienced in 20 years.

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“North West is by far the hardest hit, but the plague has spread as far east as Pretoria and Middelburg in Mpumalanga. I haven’t had any reports from farmers in Limpopo but it wouldn’t surprise me if the worms had reached this province too,” said Verdoorn.n The African army worm outbreak caused problems in North West and the north-western parts of the Free State. Free State Agriculture’s operations manager, Dr Jack Armour, said outbreaks had been reported on 20 000ha in the province.

Hannes Haasbroek, Grain SA exco member, said farmers had reacted swiftly to isolated outbreaks and sprayed crops to prevent large-scale damage. Sporadic outbreaks had destroyed grazing, which was already in a poor condition because of the ongoing drought in the province. Cor Jansen van Vuuren, Agri North West chairperson, said the outbreaks in that province appeared to be over, but the worms had caused serious damage to grazing and crops.

“The worms could not survive the extreme heat and terrible drought. The escalating drought damage to crops is much more serious. Crops are deteriorating and grain producers are suffering millions of rand worth of damage every day.” Dirk Hanekom, chairperson of Agri Gauteng, said that western Gauteng and areas that bordered North West had reported army worm incidences, but that the province was for the most part spared, due to higher rainfall.

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Dr Pieter Prinsloo, chairperson of the Red Meat Producers’ Organisation in the Eastern Cape said African army worm was reported in East Londen, Alexandria, the Tsitsikamma region and south of Queenstown. Damage was mostly caused to kikuyu (Pennisetum clandestinum) grazing, but the situation was under control, Prinsloo said.

Verdoorn said that a wide range of effective products was available. “The only issue is to ensure that cattle are withdrawn from the lands that are sprayed for the recommended amount of time. Fortunately, all the labels are very clear about withdrawal periods.” Verdoorn said Fastac, Magnum Super, Concord, Bitrad Cypermethrin, Polythrin, Ripcord, Dipterex and Trichlorfon 950 DP were all effective against army worm.