Coriander crop can help fight pests. Photo: Oxfam Kenya.
Edwin Atuya, a farmer from western Kenya is cutting his production cost by over a half growing coriander, a crop he has discovered has the ability to ‘seduce’ pest-eating insects, which have saved him pesticide costs.
Ladybird insect, which is easily attracted to the coriander, feeds on aphids, whiteflies, mites, among other soft-skinned pests attacking crops.
He has in two years ago evaded chemical costs on his cabbages after including a few stems of coriander in his one-eighth acre farm, and the results, he says were “amazing”.
“I had grown tomatoes in the same farm on an earlier season. Aphids intruded and curled the soft parts of the tomatoes, draining all cell sap (plant juice).”
Aphids are some of the worst pests attacking pepper, tomatoes, cabbage, kales, beet-roots, broccoli, Brussels sprout, lettuce, eggplant, potatoes, among other crops.
Atuya used a few stems of the coriander ensured that the ladybirds do not overfeed, therefore, fail to feed on the pests.
He used to spend about Sh200 daily in controlling the pests something that he has reduced to at most Sh100 per day.
Sunflower nectar is also another inducer of ladybirds into farms.
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According to One Kind, a Scotland animal protection organisation, a ladybird can eat about 5,000 aphids during its three to six weeks lifespan.
One ladybird lays hundreds of eggs on aphid colonies and other plant-eating pests. And they start feeding immediately after hatching, the organisation says.
The insect’s larval stage in the most active stage, where they actively feed, therefore, disarming the pests.
The farmer says the heavy application of pesticides on his tomato farm killed insects, which may have included beneficial ones like the ladybird.
With the European and other export, markets demanding minimal pesticide use in production, Integrated Management Practices, which depends on biological means to eliminate pests and diseases, remain the most viable option.
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Atuya says the next time a farmer sees the ladybird, they should ‘hug and welcome’ them to the shamba because they are “great friends”.
For effective control, coriander has to be planted earlier than the main crop to ensure by the time transplanting is being done, the ‘soldiers’ are ready for the battle.
There are more than 10 biological pest control methods in Kenya. They can be bought from companies such as Real IPM and Dudutech.