A modest method to contain the voracious cotton pests involving used cooking oil tins and molasses, and first developed in Uganda is becoming a hit among Kenyan farmers grappling with a pest that has been responsible for over 30 percent of crop losses. The innovation could be the cheapest answer that could salvage the dwindling production in the country that has been largely blamed on the pest.
The innovation,which appeals to majority of small holder farmers was first developed by renown Ugandan scientist Dr. Ben Ssekamatte. A brisk inter trade and farmer exchange visits between Kenya and Uganda has however led to a rapid uptake in especially Western and Nyanza province where the worm has taken its toll on cotton production.
All a farmer requires are yellow plastic containers with a capacity of 3 litre which are usually disposed by households after using cooking oil which are placed at the cotton farm. The containers lined with watered-down molasses. Bollworms are known to get attracted to color yellow, and they thus follow the container. To strengthen bollworm attraction to this trap, farmers then fill the containers with 20 percent molasses solution which smells like pollen and attracts female moths in particular who seek protein-rich food to develop eggs.
The combination of colour yellow and the impact of molasses is highly effective in attracting the moths, and once they dive in for a snack, they get snagged by the sticky molasses, ensuring that they can’t lay eggs in the cotton field. “We paint most of the containers yellow since its hard to get the yellow coloured ones but so far it has worked wonders,”said Masinde Wanyonyi who lost half of his cotton harvest to the moths.
The farmers especially those in Western Kenya buy the molass from Mumias Sugar Company which sells it at an affordable Sh1,200 per tonne. “And for most of the farms here under cotton production we dont need a tonne. In one harvest, the highest a farmer can use is like 100kilos which is around Sh100,”says Beatrice Nakhatandi another cotton farmer.
This reinforces Dr Ssekamatte's initial thought for developing the low cost innovation. According to the scientist, the reason cotton production was nosediving in Uganda even with various interventions to rescue pest infestation was due to unrealistic and expensive control mechanisms that never addressed the small scale farmers. With the innovation, dubbed Ssekamatte's trap, Uganda's cotton production shot up by upto 25 percent in an year. This is now being reverberated in Western Kenya where farmers like Wanyonyi are at the verge of eliminating the bollworm menace from their farms. “I have used the method for the last three seasons and my farm and myself have known peace ever since,”he said.
Bollworms are known to attack cotton balls and can destroy up to 40 per cent of a cotton crop. The moths lay their eggs on the cotton plant and the larvae attack the plant’s bolls, chewing holes and leaving them open to bacteria and rot. The squares, or fruit buds, of the cotton plant are also affected.
The moths start laying eggs during the rainy season, with the flourishing and leafy vegetation providing home and food to newly hatched caterpillars. Dry, sunny periods, that follow especially in the Kenyan weather patterns promote survival and rapid development of the caterpillars.
Though efforts to contain the voracious moths have been introduced, they havent been effectively received by farmers in part due to their prohibitive cost. For example light and pheromone traps with an insecticide cube available in the country which are effective in trapping the moths and therefore assisting in predicting an outbreak, havent enjoyed impressive uptake among farmers even after much hype and fanfare.
Unlike the armyworms, the bollworms feed on 35 food crops and about 25 wild crops, making their control difficult, and even when the farmers deal with the ones in the fields, others remain in the bush.
Bollworms have been such a concern that researchers and scientists say over 30 percent of production costs goes into pest control, a move that has discouraged more farmers to venture into cotton production, a move that has seen dismal cotton production in the country. Kenya in 2010 produced about 21,000 bales of cotton. One bale is equal to 170 kilogrammes, this compared to over 90 bales produced two years earlier with researchers projecting a further drop.
Government aware of the acute problem that could even spell doom to the local textile industry, has moved in to roll out plans for commercial growing of high yielding biotechnology (BT) cotton expected in 2014. Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) is already carrying out confined field trials of the Bolgard II variety incorporating a gene from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis that confers resistance against the bollworm. The transgenic cotton reduces pesticide use while ensuring all bolls from the crop are harvested due to reduced pest damage, which in turn results in higher returns in terms of yield and income for farmers .
Written by Eve Kaburi for African Laughter
Newer news items:
- Scientists help farmers tame maize disease as planting gets underway - 27/03/2013 16:12
- Meat fertilizer technology could end fertilizer woes in Kenya - 13/03/2013 17:12
- Demystifying Kenya's pest control arsenal - 07/02/2013 10:42
- Farmers embrace upland rice to grow income - 24/01/2013 08:38
- Farmer uses wire mesh to contain aflatoxin menace - 14/01/2013 10:14
Older news items:
- Scientists flex green muscle against locusts - 03/12/2012 12:18
- Meru floors Kisii to lead in banana production - 02/11/2012 16:05
- Bamboo and wire transform passion fruit harvests - 18/07/2012 14:41
- Researchers fight witch weed with new technology - 05/07/2012 10:09
- Research opens on high-yield rice for Africa - 30/05/2012 14:42