The Zambia National Farmers’ Union (ZNFU) has called on the adoption of technologies that will effectively rid the country of menacing pests that affect agricultural production.

Perennial outbreaks of various types of pests have provoked the Zambia National Farmers’ Union (ZNFU) to call for adoption of technologies to effectively rid the country of menacing pests.

Calvin Kaleyi, ZNFU spokesperson said the pest have severely affected agricultural production.

Reports indicate that the outbreak of fall armyworms affected around 140,000 hectares of the staple maize crop out of a total planted area of about 1.4 million hectares, in the previous farming season.

The Ministry of Agriculture spent more than K30 million to procure over 60,000 litres of pesticides that were only enough to spray about 95,000 hectares of the affected fields.

Insect pests are responsible for significant reduction in production of agricultural crops.

However, concerns on the continuous use of pesticides having a negative impact on the environment have been raised.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is using nuclear science to develop environmentally-friendly alternatives for pest control.

IAEA and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) are jointly sponsoring projects and conducting research on control of insect pests using ionizing radiations.

They have placed considerable emphasis on the Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) to effectively deal with insect pests such as army worms.

“We need to seriously start looking at investing in research and technology that will spur production. Radiation technology has proved effective. Most countries that are agriculture giants have invested in technology and research. This is the direction we need to take as a country if we truly want to be the food basket of the region and Africa,” said Kaleyi.

SIT involves rearing large populations of insects that are sterilized through irradiation (gamma or X-rays) and releasing the sterile male insects in the wild to compete with the regular male population during sexual reproduction, and the eggs produced from their mating are infertile so they produce no offspring.

Kaleyi said, with technologies such as SIT, there would be no need for farmers to worry if they did not have pesticides to control pests

“During the recent outbreak of fall armyworms, some farmers received chemicals, others did not. Some farmers had to resort to unorthodox methods such as using detergent pastes to spray their fields, meaning government intervention did not really reach out 100% to those affected,” he said.

In many countries, SIT has been effective as a form of birth control, which reduces and eliminates the insect population after two or three generations

“If armyworms aren’t controlled effectively, the general fears among farmers are a poor crop, compromised food security at household and national levels; and the entrenchment of abject poverty, especially amongst the majority rural farmers,” said Kaleyi.