Consortium rolls out agro nets that slash aphids

Local scientists have found a novel way of using mosquito nets to ward off aphids and caterpillars, the most common pests on fruits and vegetables, with agro nets that they say eliminate 90 per cent of all
pests and insects.

The nets, which started being rolled out last year, will be available to farmers from July this year.
The modified mosquito nets, which are specifically treated to fight pests, are expected to almost eliminate the use of chemicals on plants in fighting pests.“This would save farmers recurring expenses and reduce chances of chemical related diseases like cancer and other infections,” said Dr Lusike Wasilwa, an assistant director in charge of horticulture and industrial crops at KARI (the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute).
The technology uses low cover nets to prevent pest from infesting the target crop. Cheap rods (plastic, metal or wooden in nature) are used to hold the nets; this is to ensure nets do not get in contact with crop “Farmers are expected to cover plants between 5pm and 9am.

“We anticipate between 60 to 70 per cent savings on horticultural crops from the nets,” he said.
The technology uses low cover nets to prevent pests from infesting the target crop. Cheap rods, made of plastic, metal or wood, are used to hold the nets, to ensure they do not come into contact with crop
“Farmers are expected to cover plants between 5pm and 9am”.

However, farmers using the new technology may experience a two-three week delay in harvesting due to the regulated environment. “Crops under the nets might be delayed for two to three weeks, but we hope this would be beneficial to farmers. The delay would allow farmers to harvest when others have sold, getting better prices,” said Dr Wasilwa.
A Tanzanian company, A to Z Textile Mills, in Joint Venture with Sumitomo Chemicals Japan is behind the manufacturing of the agronets.
A to Z is partnering with the Michigan State University, Kari, CIRAD France — an agricultural research agency, Egerton University and the International Centre for Insect Physiology and Ecology in a USAID-funded project to test the efficacy of the netting.
The technology has also been tested in Benin by Cirad, where farmers were cynical at first but later realised much improved harvests. The Benin study found that cabbage harvests shot up by an impressive 60 per cent when covered.

A recent report by the Ministry of Agriculture found that one of the reasons the export of fresh produce had not reached the set targets was farmers' frustration with pests that were quickly developing immunity against most of the commercial pesticides. “It is our hope then that the agro nets will go a very long way in addressing this.

The trials at various farms have brought back a positive message, which is why government will invest heavily in them including offering subsidies to farmers,” said the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture Dr Romano Kiome. The agro nets will be stocked in shops and agrovet shops countrywide.
Written by Bob Koigi for  African Laughter