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North Rift maize farmers now using soil to kill armyworms

Thursday July 18 2019

Uasin Gishu fall armyworm

Tom Kibet, a farmer in Kapsemwa village in Kaptagat, Uasin Gishu County pours soil on his maize crop that has been affected by the fall armyworm on July 17, 2019. He says he has successfully kept the pests away on his three-acre farm for the last four years using this method. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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Maize farmers in the North Rift region have improvised new techniques to fight the fall armyworms which have been destroying their crops.

The farmers are now using loam soil to tame and kill the worms.

A farmer from Kapatagat, Ainabkoi in Uasin Gishu County, said that they discovered the new method of using soil on their maize after realising that the armyworms are becoming resistant to pesticides.

They said they realised that the soil helps to suffocate the pests and they die almost immediately.


“I have been a cereal farmer for more than ten years and the fall armyworm is an issue that has really been worrying us as farmers. The worms have developed resistance to pesticides. Sometimes back, I improvised a new technique of using soil. I pour a lot of soil to every maize plant,” said Mr Tom Kibet.


Mr Kibet said that although the process of pouring soil on every plant can take very long and is tedious, the results were better.

“Pouring soil to every plant like in my case, in my three-hectare maize farm is tedious and takes a very long time but it is worth it. Because the fall army worm will die and cannot spread to the next plant,” added Mr Kibet.

He said that it is three years now since he started using the soil technique and unlike other maize farmers in the region, the fall armyworms menace does not stress him that much.


He urged other cereal farmers to try out the new soil technique.

“Other farmers should try out this new technique. Apart from the good results, it does not also pose any health dangers that are very likely to be faced when one is using pesticides to spray their crops. The best time to put soil on the the plants is when it is raining so that it can go deep into the leaves and kill the worms,” he said.

The deadly pests have been reported in parts of Uasin Gishu and Nandi counties and have destroyed several hectares of maize crop that survived the effects of a dry spell.


“The recurrence of the destructive pests spells doom to the cereal sector considering the fact that most farmers incurred extra costs due to high fertilizer prices following the absence of cheap government manure in the market this season,” said Julius Ngetich from Cheptiret, whose 17 acres of maize have been damaged by the fall armyworm.

Cereal farmers have been urged to do surveillance to help them detect and control the spread of the fall armyworm.

Last season, the fall armyworm destroyed several hectares of crops in Kitale, Bungoma, Kakamega, Uasin Gishu, Trans Nzoia, Busia, Nandi, Kericho, Baringo and Nakuru counties.


According to agricultural experts, the pest is deadly and its effects may take longer than expected because they feast on both young and mature crop.

The fall armyworm moths can move over huge distances, flying for about 30 kilometres in a day especially in the evening.

“I will be forced to incur extra costs controlling the spread of the fall armyworm in my farm, translating to extra cost while there is no guaranteed market for the maize produce,” said Mr Ngetich

The Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (Kalro) has described the armyworm invasion as worse this year as compared to previous seasons. This is due to erratic rainfall patterns.

It costs the farmers about Sh1,500 to spray an acre of maize farm with pesticides to control the spread of the worms.