Wednesday, September 17, 2014

'Tuta Absoluta’ a threat to tomato production

By Samuel Nzioka

Farmers practicing horticulture in Laikipia County are facing a new threat as new tomato pest emerges and leaves them with empty pockets.  Tuta absoluta (tomato leaf miner) is a devastating pest affecting tomatoes and is considered to be a serious threat to tomato production in East Africa region.

Infected crop in Matwiku 
The new pest which originated from South America is said to breed between 10-12 generations a year. Each female can lay 250-300 eggs in her life time. This pest is crossing boarders and devastating tomato production both protected (green house) and open fields. The infestation of Tuta absoluta has also been reported on potato, watermelon and common beans.

Infected tomato fruit

Tuta absoluta has proved very challenging pest to control. Effectiveness of chemical control is limited due to insect's nature of damage as well as its rapid capability of development of insecticide resistant strains.

The use of biological factors is still largely under development and not ready to combat this pest effectively and in a cost effective way. Sex pheromone trap (TUTRACK) that has been developed by Kenya Biologics limited has been an effective tool for early detection of the pest.

Mass trapping and lure which contains pheromone has been found to be effective to control Tuta absoluta by attracting and trapping the male Tuta absoluta month. IPM strategies are being developed to control the pest.

Farmers practicing horticulture in Matwiku, Githiga ward of Laikipia west sub-county have however reported to have used chemicals like collagen and Belt which are very expensive with just 30mls of each going for Kshs 700.

"I have witnessed a farmer who had planted tomatoes and whose farm was affected by the pest use Collalen and Belt consecutively and has been able to control the pest although the chemicals are very expensive. As a group, we were hesitant but we will now plant our tomatoes and hope for the best". Said Peter Gatheru, Chairperson Matwiku horticulture self help group.

 ALIN, Ministry of agriculture and other stakeholders working with farmers in Laikipia county are working tirelessly to ensure farmers get a solution for this problem by training farmers on pest control measures.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Farmers keeping farm records despite crop failure

Farmers in sipili division have embraced Farm Record Management Information System (FARMIS), a product of Sokopepe Limited that is helping farmers keep good farm records. Since its introduction five months ago, more than four hundred farmers have been registered. Changing weather patterns as an effect of climate change has been linked to crop failure in most part of the country. Laikipia county has not been an exception and most parts of the county has recorded massive crop failure due to lack of enough rainfall to support crop growth.

Mrs. Elcy Kigano , crops officer during one of the farmer trainings
Most farmers in Sipili division have planted more than three times as a result of unpredictable small amounts of rainfall which has been falling in the area leaving crops to die at an early stages leaving farmers pockets dry. Farmers have been receiving training from ALIN and Ministry of Agriculture on better cropping systems and how they need to take care of their crop. This has been accomplished by setting up demonstration plots at different locations within Sipili and Muhotetu divisions.

 Mr. Stephen Kariuki, a farmer in Sipili  has felt the heat as he has planted three times without success.
"I have planted three times this season. every time I use more than four thousand to purchase certified seeds for my three acre farm. I'm discouraged as I used all the money I had saved and the third crop has dried up."

Mr. Francis Kiarahu, also a farmer, has also been affected by the drought. However, he has diversified his farming and incorporated other crops like cassava, sweet potatoes, indigenous vegetables, herbs and fruit trees. Despite the crop failure, he has been earning money from the sell of fruits and herbs.

Mr Kiarahu updating his farm book
"I have been surviving on sales from fruits and herbs. Although my first crop failed, My second crop has survived and doing well." Said Mr Kiharau.
"I am now keeping good track of my production costs through FARMIS and I want to ascertain weather I make profit of loss from my farming." He added.

His sentiments were echoed by Mr. Peter Mwangi who is using Farm book to track production costs on his three acres of maize and one acre of wheat.

"I want to do farming as a business despite the weather challenges and have learned without good records, Its not possible. Thanks to Sokopepe Limited and ALIN for the service." said Mr Mwangi.

Rains have been experienced in the month of August. However, most crops had either stunted growth or dried up and this has caused may farmers to replant.
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