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By GPS and DC/PR

Infestation of the Fall Army Worm will result in food insecurity and loss of income across Nyandarua unless urgent measures are implemented, the County Government has warned.

Addressing farmers during a demonstration on control of the pest in Njabini / Kiburu Ward today, the County Executive Committee member in charge of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Dr. James Karitu said it is causing damage on off-season maize in irrigated areas of neighbouring counties.

“It is spreading rapidly and has potential to cause 100 per cent loss in a wide range of crops. We can neither remain silent nor indifferent,” he warned.

The pest mainly attacks cereals, fodder grasses, sugar cane and cotton.

Others susceptible crops include kales, cabbages, legumes, banana, tomatoes, capsicum, ginger, spinach, amaranths, onions, sugar beet, citrus, cucumber and sunflower.

So far in Kenya, the pest has been noted only on maize.

“In parts of Nyandarua, long distance movement of green maize for roasting is a thriving business, which can contribute to the spread of the pest,” warned Dr. Karitu.

He lamented the lack of indigenous management options since no studies have been undertaken on the pest in Kenya.

“The Department of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries is developing a strategy to guide efforts towards management of this new pest, with a focus on providing relevant extension services to farmers across Nyandarua,” he said.

His Excellency Governor Francis Kimemia has also directed the Department of Education, Gender Affairs, Culture and Social Services to consider how the upcoming University of Nyandarua could become a vibrant hub of training, research and community outreach on issues related to the pest.

Farmers at the demonstration were trained in surveillance, diagnostic skills and management of fall army worm by public-private extension service providers, seed inspectors, agrochemical dealers, spraying teams, and researchers.

“We have trained them in early warning for detection, monitoring for signs and symptoms, mass trapping, manual control and restricted movement of infested plant materials,” said Mr. David Mwaniki, the Ward Agricultural Officer.

He said cultural methods are easiest.

“Farmers should plant early, use recommended fertilizers, keep fields weed-free to boost plant vigor, adhere to our regional planting calendar, avoid off-season planting, and avoid planting new crops near infested plants,” he said.

For chemical control, Mr. Mwaniki said potential effective insecticides against the pest include Diazinon, Alpha Cypermethrin, Chlorpyrfos, Diflubenzuron Triclorfon, Chlorantraniliprole, Spinetoram, Emamectin Benzoate, Indoxacarba and Lambda Cyhalothrin.

“However, these products need to be used appropriately at right environmental conditions to minimize development of pest resistance,” he said.

He urged all farmers to spray to avoid neglected farms, which could become breeding grounds for the insect and a source of re-infestation.

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