Local farmers on high alert for increase in beet armyworms Loop Jamaica

The content originally appeared on: Jamaica News Loop News

Jamaican farmers are being encouraged to be on high alert for any rise in the population of beet armyworms locally.

Spodoptera exigua, more commonly known as the beet armyworm, is a destructive pest that affects onion and escallion cultivation in Jamaica.

At the same time, farmers are being reminded not to delay in reaping the crops, as the beet armyworms will target them, making sales and consumption no longer viable.

The pest population is increasing, particularly in St Thomas, according to Senior Plant Health and Food Safety Officer with the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), Francine Webb.

“This is not unexpected, because over the period that we have been monitoring, this is the time when the beet armyworm increases (especially) when the temperatures are going up,” Webb told reporters in an interview last week.

“There’s an abundance of food with respect to onion, though they feed on a wide variety of crops. However, the pest favours onions and scallion,” she explained.

On that score, farmers are being urged not to wait too long to harvest their crops.

An onion farm (file photo)

“Farmers can’t just relax until another two to three weeks before they pull their crops. With the increase in the worm’s food supply, farmers will see an increase in the population of the pest as well,” Webb informed.

She further explained that because of heavy rains late last year, several fields were planted, and they sustained some flood damage.

“What that has done is that several farmers had to resupply. This pushed back the expected harvesting time.

“Currently, some fields are a little behind, waiting for another two to three weeks to harvest. But at the same time, it is the period of February to March that you see an increase in the beet armyworm population,” said Webb.

Farmers can reach out to the RADA office in their respective parishes for resources and support to manage the increase in beet armyworms.