Two armyworm species are wreaking havoc in different parts of the country, threatening Kenya’s grain harvest.
In western Kenya, the fall army worm, which is native to North and South America and has caused damage in Southern Africa, has invaded Trans Nzoia, Kakamega and Bungoma counties, where much of Kenya’s maize is grown.
At the Coast, the African army worm has invaded Taita-Taveta and Kwale counties.
Trans Nzoia announced that 500 hectares of its maize were affected as of two weeks ago and announced a Sh45 million kitty to control the pest. Reports by the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation indicate that the funding was directed at Kiminini and Endebess sub-counties.
All the sub-counties in Trans Nzoia, including Kwanza, Saboti and Kachibora, produce maize.
“The funds will enable us to acquire the right pesticides in controlling the pests which have been spotted in farms in Endebess and Kiminini sub-counties,” said Governor Patrick Khaemba when he spoke in Kitale.
Mr Khaemba also said the funds will be committed to field extension services where farmers will be sensitised on how to identify the pest, if their crops are infested, for quicker action.
“We are however calling on the national government to supplement our services. This must start by declaring this infestation a national disaster and providing enough funds for aerial spraying,” he added.
Kenya Seed Company managing director Azariah Soi, said the vicious pest, which is tolerant to most pesticides, risks wiping out plantations in the affected region if measures are not taken quickly to combat it.
“It is difficult to control the pest which is the larvae stage of a Fall armyworm moth. No single pesticide can neutralise the pest once it is at the larval stage,” said Mr Soi.
“ Unlike the African armyworm, the fall army worm, which is dispersed by wind, burrows inside maize stems and cobs making it difficult to detect and can lay up to six generations of up to 50 eggs in one location leading to rapid destruction,,” he said at the company’s headquarters in Kitale.
Nation Newsplex reached out to experts from Egerton University. Using the pesticide Dudutrin, it would cost Sh1,500 to spray an acre of maize, and Sh3,707 to spray one hectare of maize by hand, with labour costs included.
At market rates the Sh45 million allocated by the county government would take care of 12,100 hectares, which is about 12 per cent of the 103,876 hectares under maize in Trans Nzoia , according to the county’s integrated development plan.
At the coast, a team of experts has been dispatched to the affected areas of Njukini and Challa within the agriculturally rich Kasigau-Maktau belt in Taita-Taveta.