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Farmers struggle to get rid of armyworms.

Most farmers in Kenya are struggling with useless chemicals or traditional methods like applying of tobacco dust on maize leaves to control the fall armyworm.

A new study shows 48 per cent of farmers last season sprayed their maize, but most of the insecticides could not kill the worm.

Farmers named seven insecticides which, apart from being ineffective, deformed the shape of maize.

Another 39 per cent said they tried traditional methods such as sprinkling soil and tobacco extracts to plant whorl, while those in Mt. Elgon County reported handpicking.

The study, 'Farmers' knowledge, perceptions, and management practices of the new invasive pest, fall armyworm', has been published in the International Journal of Pest Management.

It was conducted last year by researchers from the International Center of Insect Physiology and Ecology and the University of Eldoret.

It lays bare the desperation of Kenyan farmers against a worm that could destroy half of the maize crop this season, according to the ministry of agriculture.

'This calls for rapid action, immense awareness creation, and technological innovation, along with national, regional, and international collaborations to tackle the danger of the fall armyworm and avoid heavy economic losses among smallholder farmers across Africa,' the study in part read.

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri said farmers might lose 50 per cent of this year's harvest if the armyworm menace is not addressed fast.

Kenya's annual crop production stands at six million tons of food crops, 4.2 million tons of horticultural crop and 500,000 of industrial crops, according to Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization.

Last week, Karlo said no single insecticide kills the worm but combining and alternating different chemicals might help.

CS Kiunjuri said extension workers have been sent to all the counties to enlighten farmers on the best ways to fight the pest.

'We are calling on Kenyans to report the pests early enough,' he said. 'The Americans told us the fall armyworm is likely a marriage that you cannot divorce. They are there to stay. The best option is to come up with means of fighting it," he said.

Kiunjuri asked farmers to use pesticides the government has recommended saying the cost will be subsidised.

'People thought the fall armyworm only attacked maize but the experts have said the pest attacks over 100 crops,' said the CS.

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Publication:The Star (Nairobi, Kenya)
Date:Apr 17, 2018
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