Drought is breeding new pests, scientists warn

By David Njagi

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

Farmers should brace for tougher times ahead following a surge of new generation pests, scientists have warned.
Destructive pests like the white fly, thrips and spider mites are evolving into new bugs for every slight increase in temperatures, according to the Association of International Research and Development Centers for Agriculture (AIRCA).
But there is no solution is sight, argued AIRCA chairman, Dr. Dyno Keatinge, during the Global Action Plan for Agriculture Diversification in Nairobi.
“This is something the government, the Ministry of Agriculture. Livestock and fisheries, and research firms need to be concerned about,” said Dr. Keatinge.
For instance, he says, as the temperature rises, the white fly is able to evolve into two or three generations each year.
According to him, Kenyan farmers should diversify into other crops to cushion them from the ever increasing problem of pests and diseases.
Research institutions should also share and transfer new technologies to subsistence farmers, he added.
“Farmers need to have information on how to deal with pests and disease,” Dr. Keatinge. “But the bitter truth is that meteorological data in Africa as a whole is of very poor quality.”
However, Dr. James Nyoro, the government advisor on agriculture, says Kenya is well positioned to deal with emerging pests because there is a lot of research being done of water tolerant crop varieties.
According to him, farmers should be encouraged to practice climate smart agriculture by feeding them with alerts on new pests.
This, he says, will enable researchers to develop new pesticides, but more importantly, develop predators that can feed on new infestations.
“One of the ways of dealing with adverse climate change effects is technology development,” argues Dr. Nyoro. “We need to put our money where our mouth is in terms of generating research and development.”
Scientists say Africa experiences a rise in temperatures of about two to 2.5 degrees centigrade every year. But this varies with different locations.

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About seventysixthstreet

Science and human rights journalist, Kenya
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