RADA issues beet armyworm alert
Farmers are being encouraged to ramp up their integrated pest-management programme with a focus on constant monitoring and surveillance of their onion and scallion crops to detect deposition of eggs of the beet armyworm.
Crops should be monitored at least twice per week or every three days to detect egg sacs, which are usually deposited at the tip of leaves. This is especially important since newly hatched worms will emerge in three days. These are the most vulnerable stages of the eggs, where cultural and chemical strategies can be most effective. In fact, handpicking is recommended where practical.
This beet armyworm alert has become necessary in light of the recent emergence of an infestation of the pest in Manchester and St Elizabeth, Marina Young, acting principal director of technical services in the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), told The Gleaner on Friday.
Following visits by extension officers to the affected areas, where they met with farmers, RADA and the Research and Development Division of the Bodles Research Station, St Catherine, jointly issued a release advising farmers to be proactive but guard against the overuse and other misuse of chemicals.
Minimise negative impact
When spraying, choose the least toxic, biorational insecticides to minimise negative impact on natural enemies (or farmers' friends) and only apply insecticides approved for use on scallion and onion crops. Effectiveness of the treatments may be enhanced in small plots by clipping off the leaf tips prior to application, especially if the older beet armyworms have entered the leaves, the release advises.
It continues: "Older worms are hardier (so) insecticidal treatment are less effective, and worms are less exposed to chemicals and natural enemies, since they reside inside the leaves. To reduce the overnight impact of migrating older worms, dig trenches 1-ft deep around the plots and keep the trench wet and muddy to prevent exit of these worms. Remove once threat to crop has subsided."
Farmers are also charged to manage all weeds within and surrounding the fields which may harbour the pest. They should pay attention to especially grasses around these fields during the rainy period as they may become an additional host for the pest.