An agriculturist, Dr Tunde Arosanye, says the African armyworm has invaded many farmlands in Kwara, Kogi and parts of Niger, wreaking havoc on a number of farms in the process.
Arosanye, National Coordinator of Zero Hunger Commodities, told News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja on Wednesday that the incident was similar to the one which occurred in the area last year.
He recalled that the 2016 invasion of armyworms affected more than 12,000 farmers and destroyed over 700 hectares of farmlands in the area.
The African armyworm (Spodoptera exempta), also called okalombo, kommandowurm or nutgrass armyworm, is an African moth and a very deleterious pest, capable of destroying the entire crops of a farm in a couple of weeks.
Arosanye described the attack as a major challenge facing efforts to achieve food security in the country, as the farmers could lose virtually all their farm produce to the pest.
He warned that famine might occur in the area if tangible measures were not taken to deal with the current invasion of the armyworms.
“The attack this year is creating more fears because of the rate at which the worms are destroying farms in the affected areas.
“We also fear that it could spread to some unaffected areas; if nothing urgent is done to tackle the menace immediately, we could run into trouble,’’ he said.
Arosanye stressed that many of the affected farmers might not be able to go back to farm in the next planting season because some of them obtained loans with high interest rates from financial institutions.
“Once their produce are destroyed, how would the farmers be able to repay the loans and if they cannot pay back, they will forfeit whatever they use as collateral.
“Government must do something urgent because the invasion of armyworms this year is fast becoming an epidemic; if it is not curtailed, it could become a threat to the country’s food security,’’ he said.
Arosanye recalled that the armyworm attack of 2016 reduced drastically the yields of grains, millet guinea corn, maize and rice, while affecting more than 14,000 farmers in four states.
He attributed the 2016 attack to the heavy winds that blew from the Sahara Desert, stressing that government ought to have taken precautionary measures to forestall the recurrence of the attack this year.
“In the past, we used to have a functional Department of Pest Control in the Ministry of Agriculture which takes care of pest-control issues and collaborates with the aviation industry on aerial spraying projects.
“All these are no longer in place; the invasion of armyworms will affect our grains and cereals production, it will also keep many farmers away from the farm,’’ he said.
Arosanye, however, advised the farmers in the affected areas not to use the seeds they harvested on their farms last year for crop growing this year.
He said that the farmers should instead buy seeds from reputable seed companies, not minding the cost.
“The affected farmers should also contact the nearest Agricultural Development Programmes (ADPs) to attend to their needs; they should also spray their maize fields to assuage the effects of the attack,’’ he said. (NAN)