By Fredrique Achieng
Mango farmers have created a trap that kills whiteflies, a pest that causes 80-90 per cent damage to the fruit, through the use of a pheromone chemical that is used to attract male whiteflies and kill them.
Kenya being the third-largest producer of mangoes in Africa and mainly exporting to United Arabs, Kenyan mangoes face stiff competition from mangoes from Nigeria, due to high infestation rate of the whiteflies. This resulted to Kenya deciding to ban the export of locally produced mangoes in a bid to combat the pest.
One such farmer who was among the first casualties of the ban was Mr. John Mutua a local farmer in Makueni County.
“When the ban first put on locally produced mangoes, my consignment was returned on the basis of high infestation by the flies. This made me suffer a great loss business-wise for me,” says Mutua.
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As a result of not knowing the best way to eradicate the pest majority of farmers decide to spray their crops with several insecticides which also entirely do not help.
“The biggest mistake most farmers do is directly spraying insecticide on to the tree of the fruit. This method does not really help in eradication of the pest. Instead, they end up causing a lot of chemical build up on the fruits. Farmers could use jar traps to deal with the pest,” says Peter Wabomba a pest control expert.
The trap is a jar covered with a lid and punched holes on the sides the holes are laced with a pheromone a chemical used to attract male fruit flies within a radius of one Km of the farm. The chemical makes male flies to think they are going towards female flies to mate but instead, they die immediately they enter the jar. The more males that die, the lower the chances of fertilization, meaning that finally, the pests are eradicated.
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This use of this method ensures there is zero to minimal chemical residue on the fruit. This method of eradication was first used in Elgeyo Marakwet that has helped farmers get rid of this pest.
“I remember during, my last planting season I Lost almost 80 per cent of my produce before I realized that it was the flies that were causing the damage. If you would look at the fruit from the outside it looked good, but once you cut it to the fruit it would be all rotten. But after I started using these traps, my produce for the past two seasons have been good and I was able to get Sh 1m after production costs are removed,” says John Kiplagat.
Another method farmers could use to protect their fruits is by sterilization of the male flies this way, once they mate with the female flies, they will not lay fertile eggs. This is a method that is set to completely eradicate this pest.