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Kenyan tomato farmers count losses after pest attack

Farmers are worried following an outbreak of a pest attack that is wiping away tomatoes in Rift Valley and Central. The pest known as Tuta absoluta, a grey-brown moth that is 7mm, wipes out up to 100 per cent of the yield within days and has no known cure. The invasive pest attacks fruits both in the open farm and in the greenhouses.

Agricultural expert Joyce Njoroge, says the pest is lethal and a female pest can produce up to 260 eggs in 21 days. Njoroge, who works with Kenya Biologics Ltd, a consortium of scientists who help farmers with information on how to improve crop production, says the pests can destroy 100 per cent of the crops in the field. Njoroge explains: “It is not a viral disease nor is it blight. These are very dangerous pests, which can destroy a whole harvest.”

The larval period, according to scientist is the worst stage where the pest grows into a caterpillar which feeds on the leaves of the tomato. According to Dr Wilson Rono, a food crop scientist at the Food Agricultural Organisation, the moth destroys the photosynthetic activity of plant and thereby destroying the whole crop. Rono says: “...a multi-institutional technical team comprised of Mininistry of Agriculture, Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis), Kenya Agricultural Research Organisation (Karlo) and University of Nairobi, was constituted to carry out survey on the pest. The team was rallied together following reports by stakeholders indicating the presence of a new pest causing symptoms resembling the migratory tomato leaf miner.”

The Government has embarked on public awareness and capacity building of the extension service providers, plant inspectors, transporters, county market personnel and the farmers on identification skills and general management of the pest.

Dr Rono says the migratory pest, is suspected to have entered Kenya through Ethiopia.

Source: standardmedia.co.ke

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