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    Insect nets can protect crops from desert locusts

    white house netWhite insect nets, which can reduce the need for pesticides by 80 per cent, can also provide a relatively cheap and simple way for small-scale farmers to prevent desert locusts from ravaging their crops, say experts, as the swarms continue to sweep many parts of Kenya.

    The advice comes as recommendations that farmers create noise and make smoke have been found to have little effect against the disastrous swarms, while the use of chemical pesticides by the government continues to run behind the scale and growth of the swarms.

    According to Cynthia Waitiri, sales agronomist at TransGlobal Distributors Ltd, which supplies agronet products from the Tanzanian manufacturer, A to Z, currently they are selling zero 4 and zero 9 white insect nets to farmers who are at threat of locust invasions, especially around Mt Kenya region. ‘

    ’The zero 4 nets have smaller mesh or hole sizes fit for crops with small leavers such as tomatoes and cucumbers while the zero 9 have bigger holes and are suitable for plants with bigger leavers such as cabbages and kales,’’ said Waitiri, who also covers Nairobi, Murang’a and Kiambu counties.

    The company sells the nets in rolls whereby a roll of zero 4, which is seen as the best protection from locusts, goes at Sh95 per square metre, while that of zero 9 sells at Sh65 per square metres. All come in different sizes such as 5.5x30m and 4x50m.

    Scientists from KALRO, Egerton University and ICIPE, all concur that the nets can offer a cost-effective management option against birds, snails, caterpillars, flies and locusts for mallholder growers. 

    The anti-insect nets are effective in protecting a wide range of crops, vegetables, fruits and all seedling productions.

    ‘’For preventing locusts, we recommend the nets with 50 per cent or zero 4 hole sizes, which, apart from keeping the insects away, also allow the crops to get sufficient aeration and avoid a confinement of crops that would lead to fungal diseases,” said Erick Kinoti, Sales and Marketing Agronomist at Shade Systems EA Ltd, provides of provider of shade solutions in Kenya.

    He says that the white insect nets have the advantage of being financially affordable, especially for smallholders who are at the risk of being adversely affected by the menace and of being able to provide effective protection against other emerging pests too.

    Installation

    For Peter Oduor, a technician at Agronets for Africa, a Nirobi-based firm that installs the nets for farmers, the nets are supposed to be set depending on the crops maximum heights to ensure the growing plants are not limited in space, while leaving no room for any pests to enter.

     ‘’For instance, white insect nets installation to a height of 50cm is recommended for cabbages and 1.2m for tomatoes with the same width of 5.5m and 30m length,’’ said Oduor, adding that if well managed the nets should last for about 10 years and then can still be recycled for use.

    The space between two frames (vaults) should be 1.5 by 2.5m and farmers should keep up to 0.3m around the edges for closing the nets around the crops with sand bags, stones or wood. 

    A 8m x 4m x 2m net house can accommodate up to 100 plants.

    This technique is easy to understand and use, he said. It is also relatively well-suited to tropical climates, because it is possible to adjust crop shading and ventilation by choosing the appropriate colour or mesh size of the net.

    The nets are made of High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) and UV-treated to block harmful UV rays from affecting the crops, and are manufactured and distributed by various companies in Kenya and the East Africa region.Currently, A to Z manufactures, distributes and provides agronomists throught Transglobal, who train and provide advice to farmers on the use of all their netting products.

    ‘’We have 14 demo plots around Nairobi, Limuru, Nyeri, Nakuru, Eldoret and Kitale where we already have early adapters championing the adoption of this technology by other farmers in their regions,’’ said Chris Okhato, TransGlobal Operations Manager.

    Other than TransGlobal, Shade Systems EA Ltd also sells the agronets at Sh85 per square metres while other companies such as Illuminium Greenhouses Kenya sells 10 by 15m at Sh98,910 and 15 by 20m Sh170,310 while Farmers Market Kenya (FMK) sells 150sqm (50m x 3m) at Sh12,000, and 165sqm (30m x 5.5m) at Sh13,200.

    Chris of TransGlobal can be reached on +254(0)20 2929236 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.,

    Illuminium Greenhouses on +254732613501, +254732613531,

    Mr. Kinoti of Shade Systems on +254 725 702 022 and Farmers Market Kenya on 0735,107,169

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