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Expert advises how to repel pests creatively in your garden

Saturday January 27 2018

Christopher Muasya, a maize farmer displays a maize cob ravaged by pests in his farm.

Christopher Muasya, a maize farmer displays a maize cob ravaged by pests in his farm. Farmers practising organic farming have been advised to seek creative ways of controlling pests and diseases in their farms to boost their production. PHOTO | BRIAN OKINDA | NMG 

REITZ MUREITHI
By REITZ MUREITHI
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Farmers practising organic farming have been advised to seek creative ways of controlling pests and diseases in order to successfully put together a productive organic kitchen garden.

Together with well-aerated soil and the right amount of compost, disease control is a vital part of organic farming.

According to Anthony Majanga, the facilitator of crops and organic farming at Baraka Agricultural Centre in Molo town, a farmer can use plants with a pungent smell to keep away the pests.

“One of the common plants that a farmer can use is the onion. The onion leaves can be planted around the vegetables in a ring formation, as they act as repellents to insects causing diseases,” said Mr Majanga.

Alternatively, the farming expert suggested the use of mint or pyrethrum for the same purpose.

A farmer can also make an organic pesticide from plants like chives and Mexican marigold whose leaves once boiled excretes a juice with a bitter taste that keeps insects away.

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“You can take a handful of the leaves, cut them into small pieces and boil them for about half an hour. Once the water has cooled, add a bar soap to the mixture and create foam,” Mr Majanga said.

He said the soap would the leaves sticky once the solution is sprayed on the vegetables or fruits, which would then trap insects that may want to bore through the leaves of the vegetables.

“The farmer can also plant the Mexican marigold close to other plants in the garden. The irritating smell of the Mexican marigold will keep away the pests,” said Mr Majanga.

Another way of pest control in an organic farm is planting trees around the farm that act as habitat for birds.

“The birds living in the trees will eat pests like the caterpillars therefore protecting the farm from pest attack,” added Mr Majanga.

One of the by products from pyrethrum known as pymarc can also be used to control stem borer in the maize plants.

“The farmer can introduce the powdery form of pymarc into the stem. The powder causes the stem borer to suffocate and die,” he said.

Interestingly, during the army worm invasion last year that troubled farmers across the country, Mr Majanga used tobacco to keep off the destructive pests from his farm at the college.

“When you put the tobacco powder in the maize stalks, it suffocates the army worms since the worms breathe through their spores,” he said.

At the same time, Mr Majanga suggested the planting of a tithonia hedge around the farm that could be used in making compost since it has a lot of nitrogen.

“The farmer should also plant leguminous plants as part of crop rotation to improve the soil before introducing another plant to the soil. When compost is poured on the soil, the leguminous plants don’t take up the nutrients but instead add them to the soil.”

It is also advisable to replant the same cuttings that are resistant to diseases.