Fall armyworm [Spodoptera frugiperda (J.E. Smith)] damage in maize: management options for flood-recession cropping smallholder farmers.
We determined fall armyworm abundance, infestation and damage on maize in smallholder farmers’ fields in the Zambezi Valley in northern Zimbabwe. Data were collected through field measurements at four sites and interviews with 101 farmers. Fall armyworm abundance ranged from 13.7 to 33.3 larvae per 30 plants, with infestation exceeding 94% and leaf, silk and tassel damage levels ranging between 25 and 50%. Most larvae on maize plants (P < 0.05) were at instar stages 2 to 3. Estimated grain yield decrease was 58%. Echinochloa colona and Amaranthus spp. were also damaged by fall armyworm. Farmers experimented with 28 combinations of pesticides, ash, and washing powders. Sixty five percent of the farmers used restricted to highly restricted pesticides. High fall armyworm abundance, infestation and maize damage levels suggest that the Zambezi Valley could become a fall armyworm hotspot. Sequential damage of plant parts signified the persistence of this pest in the study area. We recommend large-scale interventions that include chemical and biological control methods as well as destroying ratoon hosts, publishing information about locally available pesticides for the control of fall armyworm, and farmer training on fall armyworm biology and correct use of pesticides.