Intercropping is Effective in Fighting FAW – Agronomist
By: Philip Tengzu
An Agronomist at the Center for Scientific and Industrial Research-Savanna Agriculture Research Institute (CSIR-SARI), Dr. George Y. Mahama, has underscored the need for farmers to adopt mixed cropping as a measure to fight the Fall Army Worm (FAW) in Africa.
He said planting crops such as maize and soybeans on one field would not only help mitigate the adverse effects of the FAW on the maize plant, but that it would also increased crop yield as well as improve the nutritional value of the soil.
Dr. Mahama who stated this in an interview with the Ghanaian Times in Wa on Monday after a visit to some research trial fields explained that this was a recommendation of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) as a natural approach to fighting the insurgence of the FAW.
The visit to the trial fields at Bamahu in the Wa Municipality and Tanina in the Wa West District, which were the initiatives of the CSIR-SARI with financial support from CABI and AGRA, was to enable farmers to assess the effective and economical ways of managing the FAW infestation.
Over 60 farmers drawn from the Wa Municipal and Wa West District, who were at the demonstration sites, were schooled on the diverse approaches in combating the FAW including the use of agro-chemical, neem oil and leaf extract and the use of soap solution as well as ash and sand and their economic benefit to farmers.
“Intercropping creates biodiversity, which attracts a variety of beneficial and predatory insects to destroy 50% of the army worm larva population that isn’t possible with monoculture farming”, Dr. Mahama stated.
He also entreated the government to increase funding for agricultural extension services to sensitise farmers on appropriate farming practices to help improve their economic status, ensure food security and help achieve the government agenda of “Ghana Beyond Aid”.
For his part, an Entomologist with the CSIR-SARI, Dr. Jerry Nboyine explained that the field trial was necessary to enable them assess the effectiveness of the various methods including the use of sand, ash and soap solution adopted by farmers to fight the infestation of the FAW.
He urged farmers to adopt the best method of controlling the Fall Army Worm such as the use of neem oil extract which was economical to reduce their cost of production, improve their crop yield and ensure food security.
He explained that the use of neem oil extract to spray the crops was effective in mitigating the impact of the FAW, posed no health challenge to the farmer and the consumers, and improve yield as compared to the insecticide which was detrimental to the health of the farmers and the final consumers.
Emphacising the benefit of the mixed cropping, an Economist at the CSIR-SARI, Dr. Iddrisu Yahaya noted that urbanization and rampant sale of land was affecting land availability to farmers to cultivate on a larger scale and said intercropping was a potent approach to achieving more out of the limited available land resource.
He explained that the use of agrochemical for controlling the FAW was effective but expensive and posed health risk to farmers and entreated them to adopt a cost-effective approach such as neem oil extract to reduce cost of production.
Dr. Yahaya implored the farmers to regularly monitor their field and to report any challenge they encountered on their farms to the CSIR-SARI for onward redress.
The farmers commended the CSIR-SARI for taking the laudable steps to find solution to the FAW infestation to help improve their lots and appealed to the CSIR-SARI to educate them on the neem oil extraction which was economical to them.