FAO Warns Against Over Reliance On Pesticides To Fight Fall Armyworms

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in Accra has warned against the over reliance on pesticides in the treatment of the fall armyworm infestation currently devastating large portions of agricultural crops and land in Ghana.

“Many of the list of pesticides sent out to farmers may have to be revised. If we continue to use them we would not have a sustainable solution to the problem,” Dr Winfred Nii Okai Hammond of the FAO told Alfred Ocansey on 3FM’s Late Edition.

He explained: “in the revision of list, we should not forget the role of pest controllers such as bacteria and fungible weeds that are very good control agents and use of neem oil and botanical pesticides have been effective and useful beyond doubt”.

Dr Hammond observed that information from where the fall armyworm came from indicated that they do not rely that much on pesticides. “We have to depend on safe pesticides”.

Dr Hammond who was speaking to 3FM on the sidelines of a high-level meeting of experts from Mexico, Brazil and the Unites States on the fall armyworm infestation.

He admitted the effective use of pest control strategies such as soaps and detergents in fighting pests, stating “this is not new.

“In the Americas, the Colarado State University has well published documentations of the use of soaps and detergents with well known guidelines for usage,” he added.

He was of the view that farmers are the best people on their farms, as they constantly are experimenting.

“We underestimate what they know. But in Tumu and other African countries, they [farmers] have put together a number of concoctions and have proven varying levels of successes. The use of soap and detergents is a world known fact,” he added.

He declined calling on government to declare an emergency, saying there must be an emergency of immediate rapid action to address the problem.

“There is some urgency to attach to government’s task force, expand our base and focus more on the farmer, bring them into the picture and letting them appreciate the effort for them and be humble enough to learn from the farmers.”

A document from Colorado State University authored by Dr W. S. Crenshaw indicated that soaps and detergents have been used to control insects for more than 200 years: “soaps can be used to control a wide range of plant pests. Small, soft-bodied arthropods such as aphids, mealybugs, psyllids and spider mites are most susceptible to soaps,” the publication said.

“Recently there has been increased interest in and use of these products. This change is due to a better understanding of how to use soaps most effectively and a desire to try insecticides that are easier and safer to use than many currently available alternatives.”

The document said soaps and detergents act strictly as contact insecticides, with no residual effect. To be effective, sprays must be applied directly to and thoroughly cover the insect.

It mentioned several soaps distributed for control of insects and mites, saying it is available under a variety of trade names with active ingredients such as potassium salt of fatty acids.

MOFA has a lot to do since for now the farm belongs to the farmer and the ministry. Govt has a stake in the farms… if government want to see the recovery rate high, they should ensure that the farms grow appropriately, Dr Hammond said.

Giving the dynamics for eliminating the fall armyworms , Dr Hammond said experts from Mexico, Brazil, Guatemala and the US attest to the fact that the pests have a five-stage life span, indicating that the first and second stages are the most critical stages that we should start to fight them.

“Anything after that stage would not yield the desired results,” he noted.

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