KALRO steps up research as armyworm wrecks havoc


KALRO steps up research as armyworm wrecks havoc
A crop-eating armyworm is seen on a sorghum plant at a farm near Settlers, in Limpopo province, South Africa, February 8, 2017. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko/File Photo

Maize farmers will have to come to terms with evidence informing that the fall army worm cannot be eradicated in totality.

Analysis on the progression of the pest in other parts of the globe by the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (KALRO) indicate that the nuisance is here to stay.

According to the agency, there is no ‘silver bullet’ enabling the complete elimination of the fall-army worm although integrated approaches can be implemented to significantly reduce the losses emanating from the pest’s invasion.

KALRO Head of Crop Research Zachary Kinyua said the worm is virtually indestructible as he instead called on farmers to adjust to multi-faceted approaches to deal with the threat.

“Like any other crop-pest, the fall army worm cannot be solved through one method of control. In any case, we cannot talk of the eradication of the worm because, in the world over, pests are difficult to eliminate,” Mr Kinyua said.

The voices emanating from the scientific community come even as farmers take it upon themselves to try eliminate the problem.

Media reports show that some farmers have resulted to ingenious coping mechanism including spraying maize crops with detergent.

Unfortunately, none of the methods applied so far have proven efficient.

Integrated pest management systems have proven their worth in battling the pest in other parts of the globe.

Key to a resolution in the current crisis is research and data dissemination to local farmers.

Mr Kinyua urged the government to prioritize funding the scientific institutes in place to support research.

“Support should come in through research funds as there are financial implications to carrying out research. We have not been getting sufficient funds but the government has been promising to look into it. We hope our budgets which we have submitted to the central government will be looked at favourably,” he said.

The fall-army worm has been in the country since June 2016 causing significant damages to maize production to the tune of Sh3.5 billion (1.05 million bags) so far.

The wave of pest invasion in the country will not however stop at the fall-army worm with new research suggesting that new variants of the elusive pest may be headed for Kenya in the near future.

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Story By Kepha Muiruri
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