Scientists develop innovative solution against fall armyworm in Africa

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Scientists at a Nairobi-based international insect research institute on Tuesday announced an innovative solution in the fight against the invasive fall armyworm.

The researchers at the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) said they had come up with bio-pesticides that offer farmers in Africa effective and environmentally safe solutions in the fight against the obnoxious pests that attack cereal crops.

“Since this notorious pest invaded Africa four years ago, our vision has been to provide farmers with science-led, context-specific, affordable and environmentally friendly solutions for its management,” said Segenet Kelemu, the director-general and chief executive of ICIPE in a statement.

She said the bio-pesticides are effective against different stages of the fall armyworm life cycle.

“They manage both the egg and early larval stages of the pest, preventing emergence of the destructive larval stage while also hampering population build-up,” she noted.

The bio-pesticides are obtained from natural sources like fungi, viruses, bacteria, nematodes and plants, as well as certain minerals.

Bio-pesticides have numerous advantages over chemical pesticides, including facts that they do not leave toxic residue on produce, they pose minimal risk to the health of people and the environment and they are less likely to induce pest and disease-resistance.

“The fact that we have been able to fast-track promising solutions for the control of a major menace, from the lab to the field, in a relatively short time is testament to the importance of an enabling policy and regulatory environment for release, registration and trade of agro-inputs,” said David Wafula, an agriculture specialist, at the East Africa Community (EAC) secretariat said.

Hamadi Boga, principal secretary in Kenya’s State Department for Agricultural Research in the Ministry of Agriculture, said the bio-pesticides present a great model for developing agricultural innovation.

The fall armyworm infests more than 100 plant species including maize, sorghum, rice and sugarcane, as well as a variety of horticultural crops.

The pest has significant implications on food and nutritional security, trade, household incomes and overall economies. Enditem

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