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Scientist leads in fight against fall armyworm

Wednesday November 1 2017

armyworm

An armyworm invades maize crop in Karima, Nyeri County, on June 8, 2017. The pest has attacked around 250,000 acres of land in Kenya. PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

PAUL REDFERN
By PAUL REDFERN
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LONDON

A British scientist is leading the fight against a new strain of armyworm that has ravaged the maize crop across Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania and 25 other countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

Lancaster University Prof Kenneth Wilson is looking into the problems caused by the fall armyworm and he is currently studying ways of tackling the pest in Tanzania using a variant on a biopesticide virus.

“People are rightly scared about what’s going to happen,” the scientist said, warning it could soon spread across the rest of Africa and into southern Europe.

Prof Wilson first became interested in African armyworms after studying their migration through Kenya 25 years ago.

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In Kenya, the pest has attacked around 250,000 acres of land while in Tanzania and Uganda, the estimated loss is put at 3.2 and 1.4 million tonnes of crops.

“The armyworm is a clear and present danger,” Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank, and this year’s World Food prize winner, said.