Breadbasket faces worm threat

May 04, 2017
A leaf of scallion being eaten by the beet armyworm and the eggs being left behind.

A significant increase in the population of the beet armyworm has been reported by the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA). The agriculture ministry yesterday said that within 1-3 days there will be a massive hatching of young worms in the fields.

Already, the beet armyworm has reached St. Elizabeth where 50 acres have been affected. To mitigate against further damage, a team from RADA is now conducting a series of training sessions to teach the farmers how to deal with the worms. Farmers in South St. Elizabeth and South Manchester have been warned to get ready to take on the invasive species.

"We have to get the information out to the farmers quickly. To really control the pest now, we have to plough the land so that the birds can come in and eat the worms; then after the soil is rested, the farmers will have to do some crop rotation," Minister without Portfolio in the agriculture ministry, J.C. Hutchinson said.

The beet armyworm eats the leaves, stems and flowers of the plants, causing them to wither and die.


Farmers are advised to by apply the following strategies:


•Intensify the monitoring of scallion, onion and other crops at least twice per week or every three days for the early detection of the egg sacs mostly seen at the tip of leaves

• Spray crop with approved insecticides at egg hatching, when worms are very young and before they move inside the leaf.

• Dig one-foot deep trenches around the field can be an effective method in preventing migration of mature worms from field to field.

• Refrain from leaving mature scallion in the field harvest all mature scallion leaving this in the field will provide more food for the beet armyworm

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