ZIMBABWE – A fall armyworm outbreak has left a trail of destruction in Zaka, amid growing fears that the pest has affected over 20% of the district’s maize crop.

The outbreak has dampened morale among farmers in the drought-prone district, who were hoping to capitalise on recent rains to salvage something from a season that appeared destined for disaster after a prolonged dry spell at the beginning of this year, that left crops severely moisture-stressed.

Zaka District Agritex officer Mr Esau Mutuzungari said although they were still assessing the extent of the damage caused by the fall armyworm, the pest had destroyed the maize crop in most parts of the district.

“We are very worried that the fall armyworm has severely affected the maize crop in most parts of the district.

Farmers who planted their maize crop late this season have been the most affected.

What is even more frightening is that the worm is resistant to chemicals and this will severely affect aggregate maize output in Zaka at the end of the season because from our estimates at the moment, the pest has affected about 20% of the maize crop across the district,” he said.

Farmers at the Fuve-Panganai Irrigation Scheme, who grow hybrid maize seed under irrigation mainly for export, have also not been spared by the fall armyworm pest, though efforts are underway to mitigate effects of the outbreak by plotholders.

Some of the farmers in the district appealed for Government intervention.

Mr Farai Makuchete, a communal farmer from Zaka East said Government should help them combat the fall armyworm scourge to avert disaster.

“The Government should undertake comprehensive assessments to establish the full impact of the pest on crop production and farmer’s livelihoods.

This sudden appearance of the fall armyworm should be a cause for concern to crop protection authorities.

They must also react urgently to rescue the affected farmers,” he said.

Business Day