Maize crops to be destroyed to curb Fall armyworm spread in Sultanate

James Kon

The Department of Agriculture and Agrifood under the Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism (MPRT) yesterday issued an order for all maize crops in Brunei Darussalam to be destroyed to curb the spread of the Fall Armyworm, an invasive agricultural pest that can also cause serious damage to other food crops in the country.

“The MPRT wishes to inform the public that a monitoring was carried out by the Department of Agriculture and Agrifood, which shows that the agricultural pest identified as Spodoptera Frugiperda, or Fall armyworm, has been invading and destroying maize plants in Brunei Darussalam,” said the department in a press statement.

Last December, the invasion of the Fall armyworm was declared by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) as one of the global threats to food security, devastating small-scale farmers.

The Fall armyworm originated in the Americas but was detected in Africa in 2016, before spreading to the Asian region in 2019.

While the Fall armyworm has a preference for maize or corn, it can also affect at least 80 types of cultivated crops which include rice, melon, pepper, tomato, cucumber, eggplant, banana and leafy vegetables being cultivated by local farmers.

A young corn infested by a Fall armyworm. PHOTO: DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE AND AGRIFOOD

The Fall armyworm will also invade all stages of plant growth (from seedling to ripening), which is capable of causing a significant damage of 20 to 100 per cent to farm productivity.
With the high risk of its threat to the country’s agricultural produce, particularly the rice industry, the MPRT is resorting to drastic measures to curb the spread of the crop pest.

A written instruction for all local maize farmers to destroy their corn plantation was issued in accordance with the provisions under Section 13 (1) Agricultural Pests and Noxious Plants Chapter 43. Failing to comply with the orders is a violation which carries the penalty of six months’ imprisonment and a fine of up to BND2,000 as stated under Section 14 of the same Act.

“The ministry is urging maize planters to cooperate by destroying their crops immediately, through control burning or cutting down the plants. The cut down plants will then need to be burned to ashes,” said the Department of Agriculture and Agrifood in its statement.

“After destroying the crops, farmers are reminded to mix the soil with the burned ashes from the plants and spray the crop area with poison, to make sure that the Fall armyworm cocoons inside the soil are also destroyed.

“Finally, let the land rest for three months without any cultivation, to break the cycle of the Fall armyworm; or by cultivating other types of crops that are not alternative hosts to the Fall armyworm, such as potatoes, or low-risk crops like watermelon, long beans and spinach.

“The MPRT, through the Department of Agriculture and Agrifood, will carry out continuous monitoring to control the invasion of the Fall armyworm, to make sure that the produce on local farms will not be adversely affected.

“The public’s cooperation is needed to destroy the maize crops, in the hope of collectively maintaining the country’s agricultural industry and guarantee food security.”