By AGATHA NGOTHO
Dr Eliud Kireger, the director general of the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation, yesterday said this could be due to the build up of the pest on the ground as well as because the government is yet to allocate funds to carry out research on the efficacy of the chemicals used to control the pest last year.
“A year has gone and the government has not allocated any funds to research on managing the pest and on the efficacy of the chemicals used to control it. We only got Sh11 million from the National Research Fund, which is a drop in the ocean. If nothing is done, we expect to have serious damage in the next season,” Kireger said.
Last year, scientists from Water Efficient Maize for Africa successfully tested genetically modified maize variety that is drought tolerant and resistant to the stem borer and also showed some resistance to the fall armyworm in Kalro Kiboko and Kitale confined trial sites.
BM Prasanna, the director of the Global Maize Programme at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, however, said seeds for resistant varieties will not be immediately available because they need to be identified, validated, and then systematically scaled up and deployed.
“But we must remember, this pest is unfortunately here to stay for decades. So we are running a marathon here, not a 100 metre sprint. We must conserve our energy to ensure we reach the finish line, employing both short and long-term solutions,” he said. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, more than 800,000ha in 25 counties were affected by the armyworm last year. The pest was reported in Trans Nzoia, Kitale, Uasin Gishu, Kericho, Nandi, Bomet, Narok, West Pokot, Baringo, Nakuru, Bungoma, Busia, Siaya, Kisumu, Kwale and Central Kenya counties.
Kireger said last year, more than 30 per cent of the crop was damaged by the armyworm and farmers could once again suffer from more crop damage in the coming long rain season. Prasanna said the fall armyworm could cause up to Sh600 billion worth of maize damage across affected countries, including Kenya. By September last year, the pest had devastated almost 1.5 millionha of maize crops in six African countries.
He emphasized the need to carry out research on control measures such as biological control options.
“In a more long-term approach, our institution is intensively working on host plant resistance,” he said in a blog.