People Daily

Fall armyworms attack maize crop in Central Kenya

Kage Njoroge @PeopledDailyK

Maize yields are expected to decrease by huge margins following an invasion of this popular food crop by a lethal pest, which has caused massive destruction on farmlands in the country.

The hairy, slithering pest called Fall Army Worm (FAW) has raided farms in most counties, leaving a trail of malicious damage on young, green maize plants at their formative stage. The stubborn worm moves in battalions, increasing their number through rapidre reproduction as they feed on tender leaves, buds and stocks of maize crop.

The raided plants are left with torn-out leaves, damaged buds and weak straws, forcing them to wilt, wither and dry off. The pest is named ‘armyworm’, due to its attack strategies like that of an organised military contingent.

A smallholder farmer, Esther Njoki in Maragua, Murang’a says the pests invade in large numbers and they have the ability to destroy maize plantations within a short time. Njoki says the worms first appeared on her farm when the maize plants were a month old.

She did not know how to handle them and a few days later, they had spread rapidly on her one-and-a-half acre farm, destroying the entire crop. “Within two weeks, the pest had raided most farms in the neighbourhood,” she says.

Njoki says just like most of the other subsistence farmers, she did not know how to combat the worms. The cost of the recommended pesticides was out of reach for majority of the unprepared farmers.

“We watched helplessly as the crops were mauled by the greedy worms,” she says. Murang’a South Agriculture Officer John Waihenya say lack of spraying facilities, pesticides and knowhow on effective ways to fight the pest has contributed to the destruction of maize crop. “The attack exposes local residents to serious food shortages” he said.

Agriculture extension officers are visiting farms to train farmers on how to spray chemicals. “Demonstration sessions on how to confront the pests are being held for farmers through their organised groups,” he said.

Edward Kimuthu of Murang’a Agricultural Stakeholder’s Forum says some innovative farmers in the county were using organic ways to combat the pests.

“The farmers use raw glided tobacco powder, mixed with ash and water to attack the worm,” he said. The farmers use raw glided tobacco powder, mixed with ash an

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