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.
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