NAIROBI (Xinhua) --
Kenya’s ministry of agriculture
has announced invasion of fall armyworms in the country and
discouraged citizens from moving plant materials from one region
to another as the pest ravages farms in the East African nation.
The pests have infested several farms targeting mainly maize,
thus, worsening the country’s food crisis affected by a six
"The Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries
announces the invasion of fall armyworms in western, southern
and south rift regions.
"The public is discouraged from moving infested plant
materials to areas where the pest has not been detected," said
the ministry in a statement Thursday.
In Kenya, the movement of green maize for roasting is a
thriving business, posing a serious threat in spreading the
The ministry identified a variety of crops that the pest is
ravaging, including cereals such as sorghum, millet, rice,
millet, wheat, maize and barley.
Pasture grasses like Bermuda, hay and Napier grass are also
being attacked by the pest, the ministry said.
"Other susceptible crops include kales, cabbages, legumes or
pulses, bananas, tomatoes, capsicum, ginger, spinach, amaranth,
onions, sugar beet, citrus, cucumber and sunflower."
The ministry noted that the armyworm is a migratory pest,
with the adult pest having a capacity to fly over 30km drifting
through air current.
"Fall armyworm is a ferocious feeder which upon invasion
quickly destroys maize.
"The caterpillar feeds on the outer foliage making large and
"Attack on maize at early vegetative stage can result into
100 percent loss if no control measures are taken," said the
Farmers in different parts of East Africa’s biggest economy,
especially those in maize growing areas like Bungoma, Busia,
Siaya and Kakamega and wheat growing areas like Nakuru and Uasin
Gishu, have reported armyworm infestation.
The invasion spells a huge trouble for citizens, who consume
up to 4 million bags of maize every month, according to the
ministry, with the country producing only 40 million bags
annually and the rest is imported.
"Maize is the most important staple in Kenya with a per
capita consumption of more than 78kg per annum.
"Currently, approximately 11,000 hectares of off-season maize
have been infested.
"Therefore, the pest has the potential to cause national food
"This pest is of great socio-economic importance and warrants
attention," said the government agency.
The armyworm, according to the ministry, undergoes full
egg-larva-pupa-adult metamorphosis, with the female laying tiny
eggs in masses of 150-200 covered by a protective protein
sheath, making it hard to eliminate.
However, the ministry recommends late evening spraying with
requisite chemicals at least three times starting at two weeks
after emergence, then when the maize is at knee high and just
"Plant early and adhere to regional planting calendar, use
recommended fertilizers and keep fields weed-free to boost plant
vigour," the government told farmers.
County governments in affected regions have allocated
millions of U.S. dollars to help farmers fight the pest.
Farmers, on their own, however are also recording some level of
success in fighting the pest, with some noting it is just a
matter of time before they eliminate the armyworms.
"For now, I have tamed the worms through constant spraying.
"Farmers should remain vigilant all the time looking for
signs of new attacks and spray with pesticides immediately.
"One should never spray once and believe the armyworms have
been eliminated," Samuel Ambuche, a farmer in Bungoma, said