Some stakeholders in the agriculture sector have said that the invasion of the recently discovered fall armyworm (FAW), which is destroying crops, should be a wakeup call for the country to take agricultural research seriously.
They said that apart from increasing productivity, agricultural research had an important role to play in developing new technologies, inputs and techniques of production.
The Programme Officer of the Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana (PFAG), Mr Charles Nyaaba in an interview with GRAPHIC BUSINESS, said although farmers in the northern regions were yet to experience the FAW because the farming season had not started, some visits to areas like Kintampo, Nkoranza and Techiman revealed the situation was bad.
“All those who planted earlier had to harrow their lands again and then use it to plant different crops because of how the FAW had destroyed them. Some are also contemplating changing to cash crops like cashew,” he said.
He said the issue of the FAW was a serious one that demanded emergency measures to address or else it had the tendency to derail the government’s programmme led by the Planting for Food and Jobs initiative aimed at improving agricultural productivity.
The General Secretary of the General Agricultural Workers Union (GAWU), Mr Edward Kareweh, said in an interview that the country had often failed to make adequate preparations to deal with such issues, and that explained why large tracts of farm lands had been overtaken by the FAW invasion.
“That amounts to inaction and ineptitude. We just sit and wait to act when things happen although these are scientific things that we can know so we would have been able to contain the invasion to be able to fight back and win the war,” he said.
He said the FAW invasion was a regional issue that required collaboration with neigbhouring countries at the regional and sub-regional levels to deal with it.
“Going forward, we should have this type of collaboration around technical-economic issues that have no territorial barriers, especially on issues that border on agriculture, and the environment,” he said.
The FAW discovery
The FAW, a new pest in Africa that attacks maize but can also feed on a range of other crops including millet, sorghum, rice wheat, sugar cane and vegetables, destroyed about 4,000 hectares of farmlands in Ghana last year.
It was initially misconstrued as the stem worm that crop farmers normally have to deal with.
Consequently, the farmers tried to control it in their own way by spraying the leaves, ignorant of the fact that the new worm did not only feed on the leaves but can actually go down to the stem.
Caterpillars tend to enter through the side of the ear and feed on developing kernels in contrast to stem borer caterpillars that normally enter the ear from the top or the bottom.
Leaf damage is usually characterised by ragged feeding, and moist sawdust-like frass near the funnel and upper leaves.