Kenya is making major steps in tackling the risk posed by the ravenous fall armyworm (FAW).
A team constituted by the Ministry of Agriculture offers hope that the country can effectively deal the pest a knockout blow and protect food crops.
The fall armyworm, a gluttonous pest, has been reported in parts of the country, evoking fear in the farming community. This deadly insect pest can inflict heavy damage on crops within a short time if not stopped.
Scientifically known as Spodoptera frugiperda, the fall armyworm has invaded farms in Baringo, Bungoma, Busia, Kakamega, Kericho, Nakuru, Nandi, Narok, Siaya and Uasin Gishu counties.
It feeds on a large variety of plants, such as cereals, pasture, legumes, bananas, tomatoes, collard greens, capsicum, spinach, cabbage, onions, cucumber and sunflower. All these are important food crops in Kenyan households.
The good news is that pesticides offer an effective means to quickly control this voracious pest. However, the Agrochemicals Association of Kenya (AAK) supports an integrated pest management approach for sustainable control of the pest.
The Ministry of Agriculture initiated this approach recently when it convened a multi-institutional team comprising agrochemicals companies, researchers, Pest Control Products Board (PCPB), International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE), Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International (CABI), to look into ways of mitigating further losses and the spread of the worm.
The team is led by the Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture, Mr William Bett.
The committee is mandated to perform several tasks, including to create awareness on the identification of the pest and its characteristics.
They will undertake surveillance and monitoring of the insect’s activities, and identify and fill technical control gaps through research.
Lastly, the team will deploy immediate control operations in affected areas using effective pesticides.
A list of 45 pesticides with potential of FAW control was presented to the panel by the AAK member companies.
The claims had to be supported by evidence showing registration for FAW control in another country or peer reviewed technical literature.
It was noted that not all products registered for control of the African armyworm in Kenya are effective for FAW control.
The Ministry of Agriculture and stakeholders narrowed down the list to those pesticides proven to be effective in FAW control through registration in other countries.
The nine products recommended for the control of FAW are Orthene Peller, Vantex 60 CS, Coragen 205C, Avaunt 150 BC, Marshal 250EC, Fastac 10 EC, Voliam Targo d63 SC, Belt 480 SC and Match 50 EC.
AAK would like to assure the public that its members are committed to providing quality pest control products that offer effective elimination of FAW from farms.
Farmers are advised to use the pesticides as per the label directions and to always observe the requisite post-harvest and re-entry intervals.
Users should alternate the pesticides to prevent build-up of resistance. They should further perform regular scouting to target the most vulnerable stages of the pest.
We highly encourage farmers to use personal protective equipment during pesticide application. This will minimise their exposure to the pesticides.
Already, AAK has trained professional spray service providers in Nakuru, Kericho and Uasin Gishu counties. They are at hand to assist in the application of pesticides.
The writer is the CEO of the Agrochemicals Association of Kenya, and also of CropLife Kenya (email: [email protected])