Fall armyworm is continuously threatening food security and the livelihood of hundreds of millions of smallholder farmers. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that fall armyworm threatens maize crop worth USD 18 billion per year in Africa, near East and Asia-pacific. Using nature based solutions that is environmental friendly to manage this voracious pest is crucial.
In Kenya, PlantVillage dream team led by Brenda Cheptoo and Frankline Areba collaborated with icipe researcher Dr.Peter Malusi in releasing parasitoids to maize fields in western Kenya. The parasitoids were released in 8 maize fields: three fields in Bungoma County (Bumula, Napara and Maeni) and five fields in Busia County (Kocholya, Amukura, Nambale, Funyula and Koteko)
The use of natural enemies to control fall armyworm is important in improving crop yield and tackling a number of sustainable development goals such as zero hunger, no poverty, and climate action.
Metrine Taiswa from Koteko in Busia County, Kenya is one of the farmers participating in the project. She said that using parasitoids will yield her more harvest.Watch video here‘’In my one acre farm, I normally harvest 5-8 bags but this season I expect more yield as my maize crop is healthier. This was not the case before, my maize plants were attacked by fall armyworm pest. After releasing the beneficial insects in my field, I begun seeing changes after few weeks. This season I did not spray any pesticides.’’
On June 10, PlantVillage hosted a webinar to share knowledge concerning the use of biological control to manage fall armyworm, highlighting experiences of smallholder farmers in Brazil and Kenya. Speakers included Dr.Ivan Cruz an entomologist with Embrapa (Brazilian Agricultural Research Cooperation) and David Hughes, founder of PlantVillage. The webinar was moderated by Annalyse Kehs, PlantVillage Operations Director.
Dr.Cruz explained that releasing natural enemies of the target pest will reduce the pest population to a very low level. He discourages the use of chemical pesticides as it poses greater risk to the environment as well as to the farmer. He urges that if spraying is necessary to use plant extracts such as neem.
He concluded by emphasizing that we should preserve the biodiversity of biological control agents and not destroy the natural enemies which are free.
Watch the full webinar video here!
Written By:Mercyline Tata