Fall armyworms invade farms in Trans Nzoia and Uasin Gishu

Section of the farms destroyed by stray fall armyworm at Sergoit area Moiben Sub County in Uasin Gishu County. [Peter Ochieng, Standard]

Fall armyworm invasions have been reported in parts of Trans Nzoia and Uasin Gishu counties, with maize farmers fearing a drop in yields.

Farmers said scanty rains in some maize growing regions is to blame for the invasion.

Majority of the farmers are preparing to apply top dressing fertiliser.

Many maize producers have embraced new farming techniques and no longer use fire in land preparation. This, it is feared, provide conducive breeding areas for pests.

“We fear  fall armyworms and stalk borer worms’ eggs remain in the old stalk and are hatched in the current season when rains become scanty. I have witnessed the worms in my farm and notified sub-county agricultural extension officers,” said Jackson Kwambai, a farmer at Meibegi/Karuna ward in Moiben, Uasin Gishu County.

He urged the county administration to intervene and support farmers, saying effective pesticides are too expensive, hence the need for a subsidy.

“The agricultural department should intervene and avail pesticides. Effective sprays are too expensive, retailing at as high as Sh5,000 per litre, and are beyond the reach of farmers. We also urge the county to dispatch a team to monitor the situation,” said Kwambai.

Sammy Chemweno, a farmer from Moiben, said the infestations are isolated and are not as widespread as the previous years.

“Some areas that witness scanty rains have reported presence of the worms. There is need to take prompt action to prevent losses. We are witnessing a good crop development this season,” said Chemweno.

The pests have also been spotted in several farms in Kwanza and Endebess Sub-counties in neighbouring Trans Nzoia County.

Trans Nzoia Chief Officer for Agriculture Patrick Osoro said the administration has issued an alert over the invasion of fall army worms in some parts of the county.

Osoro told The Standard that the county had dispatched chemicals to help farmers spray the affected farms.

He said a team of extension officers had been deployed to oversee spraying on the affected maize fields.

The county, he said, has engaged trained service providers to spray and help farmers fight the pests.

“We have provided chemicals and engaged service providers trained by the county government to spray on the affected farms,” Osoro stated.

He said they are handling the situation after they realized that farmers lack expertise in spraying procedures and skills.

“Some farmers spray during the day, when the pests hide inside the crop. We have assigned service providers to spray often in early mornings when the pests emerge from their hide-out,” he said.

He disclosed that the damage on farms is less than 10 per cent.