Kirinyaga county government move to control invasive snail ravaging Mwea rice farms

Kirinyaga County government has launched a three-week pilot programme to control a new migratory rice pest, that has been ravaging rice crop at the Mwea irrigation scheme in Kirinyaga.

The programme being undertaken by the County government with the assistance of the national government aims at stopping spread of an invasive snail commonly known as “Golden Apple Snail”.

Governor Anne Waiguru says a joint action plan led by County Agriculture extension services team and the National government officers which is giving technical back stopping has been formed to deal with the snail menace.

Waiguru said through her intervention, the Ministry of Agriculture through the Pest Control Products Board (PCBP) has provided 2000 liters of Biograde 300 SL adequate to cover 8,000 acres of rice paddy on the three-cycle spray.

This is in addition to 40 sprayers, 40 PPEs full kit to support the pilot control exercise in Mwea.

“These items have been delivered to the County headquarters and we have started distribution to the farmers for spraying during this trans-planting season,” Waiguru said.

The governor said the pilot programme will be undertaken in selected farms using the organic pesticide.

“There will be six units in which the chemical will be utilized. These are in Tebere, Curukia, Thiba, Mwea, Karaba and Wamumu,” the governor added.

Waiguru said the transplanting seasons is the most critical period for controlling the new migratory rice pest which has invaded farms for the last four years and therefore the delivery of the pesticide is timely.

“Farmers have started trans-planting crop to the farms and over 90 percent of the transplanting exercise will be completed by end of this week and out technical team has embarked on the exercise in selected farms that had not done transplanting,” the governor added.

The COG chair added that rice production at the Mwea Rice Irrigation Scheme is a national strategic food security exercise that must be protected and efforts to eradicate the invasive snail is of great importance.

“The snail is a threat to food security in the country as it destroys crop at the early seedling stage. Therefore, controlling the Golden Apple Snail is of paramount importance to both National and County governments,” she noted.

She said successful implementation of the pilot programme will prepare for possible upscaling of exercise in the whole scheme during the ratoon and double crop seasons.

Experts from the Ministry of Agriculture’s says that the snails mainly damage direct wet-seeded rice and transplanted rice up to 30 days old. Thus, for effective control pesticide is applied immediately after transplanting, with repeats applications at 7 and 14 days.

Rose Kamau from the Plant Protection and Food Safety Directorate says Biograde 300 SL is a biodegradable pesticide that is friendly to environment and has no pre-harvest harm.

“The product is working through corrosion of digestive system of the snail, hence killing it within short period after consumption. The pesticide has been approved for use in apple snail control and its efficacy has been tested,” she said.

Rice farmers have lauded the initiative by the county government saying the snail has spread in the entire irrigation scheme.

Mwea Unit Five Chairman Samson Njuguna said that last season, the snails destroyed seedlings at the nurseries forcing farmers to do a repeat germination.

Njuguna said for the last four years, the number of snails has multiplied and efforts by farmers to handpick them and crush the egg masses has not borne fruit in eradicating them.

“Snails have been destroying our rice crops in our farms right from the nursery stage, they follow the seedlings to the farm after transplanting. They lay eggs and multiply very fast. We have incurred huge losses since the invasion by the snail,” he said.

Apple snail is listed among ‘100 of the world’s worst invasive invertebrates of waterways and irrigation systems.

Scientists from Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI) and Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) says that if not controlled or eradicated, the snail could become a serious agricultural and ecological pest, causing significant economic losses in wetland rice cultivation and threatening biodiversity.

They say that raising awareness, outreach and capacity building at all levels of the farming system will be a key factor in stopping the spread of the snail.

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