January 20,2017,Nairobi.The invasive tomato leaf miner Tuta Absoluta is giving experts fresh headaches following reports the pest has started developing resistance due to overuse of a few chemicals. Although HortiNews was unable to get full information on this unfortunate development, experts contend that it is not too late to reverse the trend.
According to Chris Kolenberg of Kenya Biologics that has been involved in a USAID-funded project using the firm’s traps, unlike in 2015 when infestation was first reported, farmers and crop protection experts are now more confident handling the pest.
“In the beginning, we didn’t know what to do but now more farmers and experts have a fairly good idea how to manage the pest’, he said.
Tuta absoluta is a moth that can cause up to 100 percent loss in tomatoes, the second largest grown and arguably most consumed vegetable in Kenya valued at more than Ksh 40 billion. It is a smallholder crop with major impact on rural incomes, as well as an industrial crop in the manufacture of puree and sauce creating employment along the chain.
When the pest struck in 2014, stakeholders were caught off guard especially with farmers not knowing what it was or what to do. Many mistook it for blight and bombarded crops with sprays and more sprays with no effect as leaves dried up and fruits aborted.
By the time experts identified Tuta Absoluta as the enemy the damage was already done. Many framers stopped farming. However, like everywhere else when a new pest invades, Tuta is currently well settled in Kenya and spreading fast towards the south having attacked Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Zambia. West Africa is reported to have been attacked too.
Many farmers who abandoned production of tomato following huge losses are now going back said the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Organization head of horticulture Dr Lusike Wasilwa. Mr Kolenberg said Kenya has achieved 75 per cent of Tuta Absoluta control by use of traps. Kenya Biologics tested its Tutrack pheromone trap to combat the pest among smallholder farmers in Western Kenya under the USAID Feed Feed the Future Kenya Innovation Engine.
Tutrack is a pheromone-based masstrapping system consisting of a lure and a trap. Kenya Biologics demonstrated the efficacy of the technology, which was proven to give 400 kg more yield per 0.1 hectare compared to other products.
Kenya Biologics is currently piloting the innovation under a subsequent USAID grant with the aim of marketing it to at least 4,500 smallholder tomato farmers and establishing in-house production to meet market demand, according to a report by USAID.
While it is impossible to attain 100 per cent levels of control, Mr Kolenberg says a combination of practices is required.
“Orchard sanitation, trapping and spraying are the farmers best bets in management of Tuta Absoluta,” he said adding that pesticides are available from multinational agrochemical firms.
He adds that in about two-three years Kenya should see natural enemies follow the pest adding to the treatment regime.
What to do?
If you see the signs – tunnel hidden inside tomatoes with holes, hang a trap. If you catch a moth or see a dropped fruit get all the affected parts out. Walk through every two days removing all damaged crops to stop the moth that lays 280 eggs from increasing the infestation. Burry the fruits and leaves in a deep hole. Go to your neighbor and get them do the same. It
doesn’t help doing it alone. Once the crop is over, don’t leave it on as majority of the pupae will go to the soil – Chris Kolenberg.