Alarm as war on armyworms flounders

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By STANLEY KIMUGE
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Inadequate pesticides, erratic weather and improper use of chemicals, some which do not have correct ingredients, are hampering the war on Fall armyworms.

Trans Nzoia, Uasin Gishu, Kwale, Homa Bay, Taita Taveta, Nakuru, Busia and Bungoma are among the counties hit by the pest that is mainly attacking the maize crop.

Some of the counties had recorded major strides in fighting the pest since February when it was officially reported in Kenya but all the gains made are being reversed as the regions record re-infestation.

The destructive worms of South American origin were first reported in Kenya in February and have been touted as the biggest threat to maize production.

Mary Nzomo, Trans Nzoia’s Chief Officer in-charge of Agriculture, said the county is experiencing re-infestation.

“What we are fighting now is re-infestation despite our extensive spraying since most of the neighbouring counties did not do much to control the pest,” she said.

The county provided free pesticides to farmers targeting 21,600 hectares involved mainly on commercial maize production.

“We spent Sh43 million to purchase chemicals that enabled us to cover 13,000 hectares. But these chemicals are almost running out, we appeal to national government to move with speed and intervene,” said the official.

Nzomo added they have information the national government has begun purchasing chemicals, and she hoped the distribution will begin soon.

“The current high temperatures and excess humidity allows multiplication of the pest, we might lose up 30 per cent of crop in the field. Heavy rains would have helped us fight the pest better.”

In Uasin Gishu, the Executive in-charge of Agriculture, Dr Cyril Cheruyot, said most of the resources allocated on the fight against armyworms are depleted.

MAIZE LETHAL NECROSIS ATTACK

“We have so many cases coming up especially after the rains disappeared which is really contributing to re-infection and rise in new cases. The county has spent so far Sh10 million but little has been achieved.”

Johnson Murei on his 50 acre farm in Moiben.

Johnson Murei on his 50 acre farm in Moiben. The maize seed producer says he detected the pest early and has managed to contain it through his own efforts but his cost of production has doubled. PHOTO | STANLEY KIMUGE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

He noted that some farmers were falling prey to fake, cheap chemicals distributed by unscrupulous pesticide stockists.

“We have realised that some of these outlets are selling bad chemicals which are not helping farmers at all. They spray the chemicals but the pests are not going away worsening the problem. We advise our farmers to liaise with agriculture officers.”

Japheth Ruto, a maize farmer from Moiben in Uasin Gishu, said he sprayed his farm but it is now re-infested since neighbouring farmers did not do much to control the pest on their farms.

“There were also delays in acquiring chemicals due to bureaucracy at county governments,” said the farmer, noting he did not receive enough pesticides from the county government making him dig deeper into his pockets, thus raising his cost of production.

Daniel Ngure, who farms on five acres in Karuna, in Uasin Gishu, noted a number of farmers are still using improper chemicals.

In Narok, farmers are crying for help as the armyworms continue to invade and ravage maize farms and pasture.

Affected areas include, Mulot, Sogoo, Segemian, Nkorinkori, Nkaroni, Melelo, Ololulung’a, Nkareta, Kilgoris, Katakala and Ntulele.

The region has been unlucky as the invasion comes few years after the Maize Lethal Necrosis attack, which caused tremendous losses to farmers in the county and the neighbouring Bomet.

Narok County Chief Officer in-charge of Agriculture, Christopher Lenkukuu, said that the government is doing its best to eradicate the armyworms, but he did not outline measures taken.

Additional reporting by Peter Changtoek

  • The government has recommended the following chemicals; Avaunt, Coragen, Vantex and Fastac.
  • Others are Dudutrin, Twigapyrifos, Belt, Match, Ranger, Loyalty, Integra, Orthene, Jackpot, Imaxi,
    Chlorpyrfos, Alpha Cypermerthrin, Indoxarb, Di Ubenzuron, Clorantraniliprole and Spinetoram.

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