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How to control armyworm in maize plantations

By Grace Chomba

Maize has been the staple food in Kenya. The crop is grown by smallholder farmers and large-scale farmers for commercial purposes and food supply. The farmers have been struggling with armyworms infestation which causes huge production loss of about 15 per cent to 75 per cent.

Armyworm is an insect pest that does not only attack maize but also other cereal crops such as sorghum, millets, rice, wheat, sugarcane, pastures and vegetables. They can migrate from one area to another through flying or blown away by winds.

They are hard to control in the day since during the day they will hide in maize funnels and at night They will come out to damage the crops.

They will feed on the crop’s leaves causing extensive defoliation leaving ether the plants stalks or ragged and torn appearance on the plant leaves. They attack crops at any stage. In maize crops, the pest will be found in the maize cobs around the ear silk damaging the grains and if not controlled it can cause rotting.

Control

According to green life crop protection Africa, use of pesticides such as ESCORT 1.9 EC that contain a silicone-based, nonionic wetter and spreader making pest control effective by improving spray coverage, adhesion and chemical penetration. This will help the spray stick to the leaf surfaces for a longer period having in mind that the pests destroy the crops at night.

Before using chemicals, ensure the pest population is large as the can be managed by use of chill powder and ash.

Add nutrients high in nitrogen to the spray solution and watering your crops. This will encourage foliage growth and increase the pests’ feeding rate. Once they feed on the sprayed leaves they will die.

Since the pest causes huge destruction on maize compared to other cereals, crop rotation is encouraged to avoid pest build-up in the soil. Ensure you don’t plant maize to a place where you had previously planted cereal crops such as sorghum, millet, rice, wheat and sugarcane as they always make the pest persist in fields in absence of maize crop until the next season.

Frequent visits to the farms will help you sight pest infestation early. Weed control enhances crop vigour and discourages pests infestation.

Intercropping crops such as maize with drought-resistant green leaf desmodium and brachiaria on the farm help curb the pest infestation.

Deep ploughing can expose pest larva to the sun and predators.

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