KENYA – The Ministry of Agriculture has launched a three-week pilot program to control a new migratory rice pest, apple snails, that has been ravaging rice crops at the Mwea irrigation scheme in Kirinyaga County.

The move follows a recent warning by scientists, led by Kate Constantine, Project Scientist at CABI, who raised an alarm regarding the apple snail invasion in the country’s largest rice irrigation scheme after a CABI-led study published in the journal Pest Management Science.

According to the study, extension agents stated apple snails as one of farmers’ top five complaints and agro-dealers reported that 70% of complaints daily were due to apple snails. Studies report that the Apple snail is listed among ‘100 of the world’s worst invasive invertebrates of waterways and irrigation systems.

Scientists noted 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.

Therefore, the program being undertaken by the county government with the assistance of the national government aims at stopping the spread of the invasive Apple snail commonly known as the “Golden Apple Snail.”

Agriculture PS Harsama Kello speaking in Mwea said that Bio grade Pesticides will be used to manage and control the snail population that affects rice from spreading to other rice growing areas adding that the Ministry has already procured 20,000 liters of this product to mitigate against the migratory pest.

Harsama revealed that rice is a vital crop in Kenya and ranks third among cereals and is prioritized under the Bottom-Up Economic Transformation Agenda (BETA).

In addition, the Ministry is implementing the National Rice Development Strategy Phase 2 (2018-2030) to enhance production, decrease grain loss, raise farmer income, and improve food and nutrition security.

During the launch, Governor Anne Waiguru said a joint action plan led by the county Agriculture extension services team and the National government officers to give technical backstopping has been formed to deal with the snail menace.

Waiguru stated that the Ministry of Agriculture through the Pest Control Products Board (PCBP) has provided Biograde 300 SL pesticide together with 40 sprayers, and 40 PPEs full kit to support the pilot control exercise in Mwea.

According to the governor, the transplanting season 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 crops to the farms and over 90 percent of the transplanting exercise will be completed by the end of this week and our technical team has embarked on the exercise in selected farms that had not done transplanting,” the governor added.

On their part, experts from the Ministry of Agriculture said 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.

For all the latest grains industry news from Africa, the Middle East and the World, subscribe to our weekly NEWSLETTERS, follow us on LinkedIn and subscribe to our YouTube channel.