The national government has launched a multi-institutional fight against the spread of armyworm that has attacked maize plantations in at least 11 counties.
Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett said they will involve all research institutions in coming up with a solution to quickly to avert massive losses.
Those affected include Trans-Nzoia, Nakuru, Kakamega, Nandi, Busia, Bungoma, Uasin Gishu, Taita Taveta and Kwale.
“We have taken this approach to ensure that we contain the spread of this pest,” Mr Bett spoke during the launch of the initiative at Birunda in Trans Nzoia.
At the moment, he said the ministry is sensitising farmers nationwide on the basic measures of identifying the pest and constantly spraying their crops to contain them.
“We currently have no specific pesticide to control the disease. We have a broad spectrum of pesticides that we are advising farmers to use as we carry on with research,” he added.
Prof Paul Kimurto, a crops expert at Egerton University, wrote in the Nation that high risk armyworm outbreak normally occurs during prolonged drought as it has been in Kenya for last one year, hence scouting for early signs of infestation is recommended.
New invasive species like Fall armyworm that can be spread through maize imports or wind flows need to be monitored.
Farmers are advised to report any outbreak to county extension services so that large-scale spraying in affected regions can be mobilised.
On the other hand, individual farmers can also spray contact insecticides like Cabaryl, Sevin or Permethrin.
Also, counties that have reported the outbreak of armyworm need to buy and apply insecticides that are effective and ensure effective application through contact with insects for better control.
They mostly attack plants belonging to the grass family for example maize and sorghum, but can also ravage beans, groundnuts, Irish potatoes, sweet potatoes, spinach, tomatoes, cabbage, cucumbers, cotton, tobacco and clovers.
Farmers were advised to spray their affected crops with the pesticide at night when the pest is most active as opposed to daytime when the worms tend to hide for fear of light.
Mr Bett added: “We are currently working closely with countries that have lived for long with the pest like Brazil to enable us acquire the best technique of containing its spread.”
Mr Elkana Lunanine, one of the farmers in Trans Nzoia contracted by the Kenya Seed Company to grow seed Maize, said he risks incurring huge losses since his efforts to control the pest that has attacked his 200 acre farm have been unsuccessful.
“I have been trying to contain the pest by applying several pesticides through spraying. The pest shifts from one part of the farm to the other,” Mr Lunani told the CS.
Trans Nzoia County has set aside Sh45 million to fight the menace that has put more than 500 hectares of maize plantation in the region under risk.