From the one disease to another. Fall army worm (FAW) has struck again, but unlike the Covid-19 virus, we have a way to stop it in its tracks. Most of our valuable maize, which comprises 90% of our staple food, is currently approaching maturity.
This is the stage in which we can least afford to lose it. There is no fast-growing cultivar that can save us now. Our smallscale farmers are the most vulnerable, since they depend on maize for their day to day survival. They cannot afford to lose one bag of maize.
This yearly occurring pest causes havoc in our crops, and last year an estimated 35% loss in maize yields was reported. We have to act vigilantly and decisively. Over the past three months, government distributed pesticides to various provinces and districts, and farmers are actively trying to combat these unwelcome caterpillars. But the damage will be significant again, and many people will lose their food secure status.
A modern approach in fighting FAW should be seriously considered. One very exciting solution is the implementation of drones and artificial intelligence. Companies, like John Deere, are developing a drone in a nest. It consists of an unmanned vehicle which carries a container filled with chemicals over a land and identifies any irregularities in the field. With the highly sophisticated cameras and sensors, the drone can spot the type of disease or pest, and apply the right poison to eradicate it.
The drone can stay airborne for 30 minutes and then has to return to the nest to swap the battery with a fully charged one while refilling the container. The savings in pesticide, man-hours and time will be significant, while efficiency will be improved.
This is the future we have to pursue, and governments will have to look at helping small-scale farmers in combating threats the smart way. It can save lives. Agritech has been postponed, but you may still visit many of the exhibitors between our pages.
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