Kenyan researchers have introduced a wasp native to South America as part of a comprehensive plan to help tomato farmers address, one of the most destructive pests currently plaguing their crop, tomato leaf miner (Tuta Absoluta).
The International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (Icipe) has introduced the parasitoid wasp “(Dolichogenidea gelechiidivoris) as part of an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) method to save the crop.
The wasp from Peru where the Tuta Absoluta pest originates has been christened the ‘natural enemy’ of the insect.
During the launch of the wasp in Kirinyaga County, farmers were also trained on the use of traps that focus on the annihilation of the male pests to reduce reproduction. A single female moth can lay up to 260 eggs during its 30- to 40-day lifetime.
Based on the research, the Tuta Absoluta attractants are yellow and emit the female scent that attracts the male moths.
Peterson Nderitu, a research officer with icipe, noted that the traps and lures can be used for monitoring purposes and mass trapping.
“This informs the farmer on the population levels of moths thus giving information on when to start controlling the pest,” he noted.
“This results in tomato plants being attacked when they are still young thereby dying before the fruiting stage,” noted Ndlela.
In an effort to subdue the ever-increasing population of the pest, most farmers have resorted to use of a broad spectrum of synthetic insecticides that have not been tested and recommended for use on fruits and vegetables.
Michael Njue, a tomato farmer representative said farmers have been following an unguided chemical programme that saw them spray their produce at every stage of their growth which has been cited as the root cause of the menace.
Further to their desperation, they started importing chemicals from neighbouring Tanzania and Uganda and all have proven ineffective.