Fall Armyworm (FAW) is a highly damaging pest to maize. However, in the past five years, it has become a source of concern to smallholder farmers in Africa, who have to devise ways of controlling the pest using chemicals they can hardly afford. The Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT) Fall Armyworm Compact is helping smallholder maize farmers combat FAW and sustain production levels in Africa. IITA Entomologist and TAAT FAW Compact Leader Peter Chinwada, in a recent seminar, provided updates on the deliverables, partnerships, successes, challenges, and solutions achieved under the TAAT FAW Compact.
The Compact operates in nine countries: three in Southern Africa—Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe; two in East Africa—Kenya and Uganda; and four in Central and West Africa—Benin, Cameroon, Ghana, and Nigeria. The TAAT FAW Compact has been working closely with the Maize Compact, and together, they have achieved excellent results.
Since 2018, under Chinwada’s leadership, 51.4% more partnerships have been formed. Of the ambitious target of 9 million people to be trained, a substantial number of trainees have been recorded despite Covid-19 restrictions and other limitations hindering training. And 90% of new technologies have been tested for adoption by farmers.
One of the foremost FAW management technologies is a seed treatment chemical deployed in partnership with Syngenta Agro. With this technology, farmers get maize seed already treated with the chemical Fortenza Duo, which means they don’t have to treat the seeds on the farm.
The seed companies buy the seed treatment chemical as a twin-pack of commercial products: Fortenza® 600 FS (cyantraniliprole 600 g/L) + Cruiser® 600 FS (thiamethoxam 600 g/L). Cruiser controls root and sucking pests while Fortenza controls FAW and other leaf-chewing aerial pests. Fortenza is transmitted systemically from the roots to the leaves and thus minimizes damage to leaves during the maize seedling stage. Larvae that feed on the maize leaves will eventually crawl away when they find the leaf material unpalatable and eventually die off.
Despite the chemical being proactively deployed before full registration in Zambia and Zimbabwe, validation trials were the first step before scaling because IITA first needed to know how the product would perform. The validation trials conducted by the TAAT Fall Armyworm Compact found that resultant maize plants from Fortenza Duo-treated seeds were greener, fast-growing, and relatively taller than other plants from untreated seed. This reduced the number of subsequent chemical sprays needed by farmers.
The TAAT Fall Armyworm Compact has developed technologies for very low infestations of FAW and others for heavy and medium infestations of FAW. Intercropping maize with other legume crops has also been encouraged among farmers to smother weeds and fix nitrogen. There are several technologies yet under validation and several others in the scaling phase. Visibility-creation and capturing farmer testimonies are also ongoing in partnership with NARES and other partners.
Chinwada has participated in various initiatives to mobilize financial resources, including the Malawi Digital Plant Health Service and the Global Environmental Facility Grant to the African Development Bank (to be coordinated by IITA).