The country is staring at a major food security crisis, following the outbreak of fall armyworm in maize bed regions of Rift Valley and Western Kenya.
This has forced the Ministry of Agriculture’s Crops Division to notify all county directors of agriculture of the outbreak in Kenya, even as the country struggle with the impacts of the prolonged drought that has seen prices of primary food like maize and sugar more than doubled.
According to the ministry, a field survey conducted confirmed invasion of this pest on off-season maize currently found in the following counties; Trans Nzoia, Bungoma, Kakamega, Uasin Gishu, Nandi, Kericho, Baringo, Nakuru and Busia
This infestation has caught farmers flat footed, with no prior information on how to curb this pest that can cause up to 100 per cent crop damage
It is reported that some farmers in Kakamega County have turned to desperate measures like pouring hot water on their crops with the hope of killing those pests
It is on this basis that Dhahabu Kenya is going to run a series of stories on this topic in order to give farmers relevant information on how to monitor, prevent and reduce the damage caused by fall armyworms
-Regularly monitor leaves for leave damage or presence of larvae
-Use pheromones traps to determine incidences of adult moths and disrupt mating during the whorl stages
Fall armyworms can be controlled using two effective methods-cultural and biological. Measures under the cultural control methods includes:-
-Early planting to avoid periods of heavy infestation
-Planting of early maturing varieties
-Rotational planting. Since grass like crops like maize are highly susceptible to these pests, you can plant legumes like beans, soybeans or groundnuts. Mixed farming can also help minimize the damage
-Farmers can also adopt reduced tillage methods as they normally lead to an increase in predators like chameleons. However in areas with high infestation, farmers are advised to practice high tillage practices like plowing in order to effectively reduce the survival rate of pupae in the soils
-Breeding of fall armyworms predators in the farm, though expensive and highly technical, is one of the best methods to reduce the impact of those pests. Numerous parasitic wasps, natural predators and pathogens help to control the population of fall armyworms hence less damage
-Just like other insects like bees, adult fall armyworms feed on nectar. Farmers can therefore plant flowers around their maize plantations to attract fall armyworm moths
-Insecticides are viewed as the least mode of fall armyworm control method, thanks to the resistibility of these pests.
-For effective application, farmers are advised to spray regularly before larvae burrow into whorls.
-Insecticides application should be done mostly at night when those pests are very active.