Farmers in Embu may soon adopt biological methods to control pests for sukuma wiki, sorghum, tomatoes and bees.
The project is led by experts from Sweden University of Agricultural Sciences and Embu University college.
The aim is to increase crop production, reduce the cost of production to increase farmers’ earnings, and train students in polytechnics and in the Embu University College.
The announcement was made when the project leader, Prof Jan Langerlof, paid a courtesy call on Embu Governor Martin Wambora.
“The project will also offer scholarships for agricultural research-based trainings at Masters and PhD levels,” the Governor said.
The project is expected to benefit more than 100,000 farmers who lose much of their produce to pests and diseases.
The Swedish university has a well-known Centre for Biological Pest Control, whose mandate is to research on crop pest and disease control using environment-friendly methods.
Experts from the two institutions have already started researching on biological pest control for sukuma wiki, cowpeas, sorghum, tomatoes and bees, and are expected to expand to other crops within the county.
Insect pest problems on cowpeas can, for instance, be reduced by use of strategies which involve ecological manipulations.
These include crop diversification (mixed cropping), alteration of planting dates, crop rotation, trap-cropping and weed control.
Biological pest controls also use the natural enemies of pests to kill or reduce their impact.
Though this method may not completely eradicate a pest, using biological controls offer advantages over other control methods such as pesticides.
For instance, it creates no chemical run-off in waterways or soil pollution.
“The people using biological controls don’t have to worry about the health effects of handling the biological control agents, as opposed to the health risks of working with pesticides,” Langerlof said.
The agreement came soon after the county government distributed more than 38 tonnes of seeds for maize, millet, sorghum and cowpeas to farmers in Mbeere, Manyatta and Runyenjes.