Emerging farmers at an irrigation scheme at Matangari village, outside Thohoyandou in Limpopo, say the presence of the Fall Army Worm is affecting their maize produce.

Farmers belong to an irrigation scheme in the area which covers 1000 hectares and worm has been detected for a second season in all five districts of the province.

The provincial Agriculture Department says Vhembe is one of the areas that are experiencing the worst outbreak.

The department confirmed the return of the worm in two provinces last week.

The seasonal pest mostly feeds on maize.

Farmers fear incurring financial losses if spraying missions are not intensified.

Emerging farmers operating under the Tshiomo Irrigation Scheme have projected losses estimated between R200 000 and R300 000.

The scheme is a joint venture by more than 900 farmers. Some of the female farmers at one of the farms have painted a bleak picture.

The invasive worm breeds quickly. After voraciously feeding on healthy green plants, the caterpillar will pupate before becoming an adult moth to restart the cycle.

The Department of Agriculture in Limpopo says its budget for combating the Fall Army Worm is limited.

Agriculture specialist at the department, Prudence Nenweli, says they are working with the communal farmers.

“This new pest that is invading the farms, they have no information about it. So, as the Department of Agriculture, we are working really well with them on how best to manage this pest. We also have a minimum budget on giving them pesticides.”

Although experts with Grain SA say food production and exports will not be affected, the subsistence farmers in areas like Matangari remain nervous.

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