No stranger to the Victoria Falls: The fall armyworm marches on menacingly

Fall armyworm Zambia
Fall armyworm feeding on maize kernels at Kasiya village

The town of Livingstone, in the Southern Province of Zambia is world renowned for its magnificent views of the Victoria Falls. Annually, thousands of visitors flock this town to awe at one of the seven natural wonders of the world. A few kilometres away from this picturesque view lies Kazungula, a small border town between Zambia and Botswana, on the north bank of the Zambezi River. This area is lucky to have plenty of rain, and the residual moisture that remains in the soil enables farmers to plant a second crop of maize, referred to locally as “winter maize”. What would seemingly be a blessing has, however, become a quandary for the thousands of maize growers in Kazungula. The invasion of fall armyworm, Spodoptera frugiperda into this area has conspired against the farmers to ensure they do not exploit this natural resource to its fullest benefit. First reported by Zambia to the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) in early 2017, fall armyworm is present in all ten of Zambia’s provinces and continues to rampage the country unabatedly.

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Could entomopathogenic nematodes combat fall armyworm?

PatrickFalletCover

Research is currently underway to study new ways of encapsulating and applying entomopathogenic nematodes (EPN) to better combat the invasive and destructive fall armyworm in Africa.

PhD student Patrick Fallet is investigating the possibility of a novel biocontrol approach which will attract the armyworm caterpillars to beads containing biocontrol agents such as the insect-killing EPN.

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