Kenya scientists discover invasive snail damaging rice farms

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Kenyan scientists discovered an invasive snail that was damaging rice farms.

Given the impact of this species in Asia, there is need for an assessment of the risk to Africa, and the implementation of an appropriate response in Kenya and elsewhere to manage this new threat to agriculture and the environment, said experts.

Theophilus Mutui, managing director of Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) said Thursday that the apple snail, scientifically known as ‘Pomacea canaliculata’, threatens Kenya’s rice production especially in Mwea region where over 70 percent of Kenya’s rice is grown.

The snail is widely considered to be one of the most invasive invertebrates of waterways and irrigation systems.

Mutui said that since it was first detected in Mwea irrigation scheme in central Kenya, the snail has spread gradually to other parts of the country.

To manage the spread of the snail, local farmers will be trained, the public will be made aware of its dangers, physical barriers will be installed, and the use of mechanical control and community-based snail management will also be promoted.

Ivan Rwomushana, senior scientist, Invasive Species Management at the Nairobi-based Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International (CABI) said that the findings show that other irrigation schemes in Kenya are still unaffected, although seed and machinery brought from Mwea poses a risk for invasion.

“We will work with the relevant national agencies to develop a rapid response and containment strategy to tame this new invasive species,” Rwomushana said.

The snail has become an agricultural and ecological pest, causing significant economic losses in wetland rice cultivation and threatening biodiversity in Asia. The snail is listed among 100 of the world’s worst invasive species.

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