County calls for help to curb worms
Trans Nzoia county government is appealing to the national government to bring on board specialist to carry out more research on the fall armyworm that is threatening food security in the country’s granary.
The county’s executive in charge of agriculture Mary Nzomo said during a stakeholders meeting on fall army worm that if not well checked, the caterpillar will have adverse effects on maize farming in Trans Nzoia and its environs.
“What is more worrying is that the worm has also infested maize seed and this may affect planting given that maize farming heavily relies on Kenya Seed for certified seed,” she said.
At least 4,000 acres of land is under seed in Trans Nzoia and most farmers have been contracted.
Nzomo said that efforts by farmers to spray the infested areas have not borne fruits in most areas.
She warned that if appropriate mitigation measures are delayed, the pest could cause over 70 per cent losses, adding that already, the county government has identified 680 hectares that will be used as demonstration sites on how to deal with the worm.
One of the farmers who attended the stakeholders meeting Benedict Lukusi from Cheranganyi said his two acres under maize has been destroyed by the worm.
He expressed fears that his harvest will drop due to the worm and asked both the county government and national government to intervene adding that most farmers in Trans Nzoia rely on maize farming for a living.
Dr. Charles Kariuki a director with The Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) in charge of food crops in Kitale admitted that the armyworms are resistant to many pesticides on the market.
Kariuki explained that changing characteristics of the fall army worm is an enabling factor to resistance and advised farmers to spray late in the evening or very early in the morning, when the pests come out of their hiding places to feed on the maize plants.
Kariuki said the timing of spraying was important adding that often the worms hibernate during the day and spraying at this time will not have good effect since pesticides, once sprayed were only effective for few hours.
He explained that the pest exhibit a mode of feeding at night but hides inside the stalk or soil during the day to avoid the sunshine. “We advise farmers to spray at night to kill the larvae,” he urged.
The director urged the government to train farmers on how to manage the pests and on best farming practices to minimize their spread.
He said that the pests spread fast since in their lifecycle they breed between 1500 and 2000 eggs which can easily be flown by wind.
“After six or seven days the pest becomes a moth and recycles producing more eggs,” he pointed out.
Alliance for Green Revolution Africa (AGRA) Plant breeder Lilian Gichuru estimated that the country might have lost over 13.5million maize seed crops since the pests invaded the farms.
She said that the research they carried out show that the change in climatic condition within Africa favored the existence of the pests. “The pests adapt in temperatures of between 10 to 30 degrees,” she added.
She said that the pests lower the quality of the grain and they suppress the crop before tussling.
Gichuru urged the government to provide funds that will help train farmers and also get specialists to closely observe the behavior of the worm. He advised that a strict planting period should be adopted in order to interrupt the cycle of the pests.
She observed that already the pest has affected more than 25 countries in Africa and were still spreading to more regions.
She called on policy makers and researchers to come on board and identify a multiple option that is cost effective and one that can eliminate the pests.
By Pauline Ikanda