Insect pests are a key constraint to effective utilization of cereal crops in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), with damage caused by these pests in the stores of particular concern. Although a number of approaches have been advanced for control of storage pests of maize, uptake remains a challenge, with effectiveness of some approaches being questionable. We conducted a survey in western Kenya among 330 respondents using face to face interviews and focus group discussions to evaluate farmers' practices, knowledge and perceptions of storage pests of maize, and their current practices in managing such pests as a basis for development of efficient integrated pest management (IPM) approaches for the pests. Majority of the respondents stored maize in traditional granaries, with less than 10% of them using modern improved facilities, mainly due to inability to afford these. Majority of the respondents also cited attack of their stored grains by a number of insect pests, causing about 40% grain losses. The larger grain borer, Prostephanus truncatus (Horn) (Coleoptera: Bostrichidae), sawtoothed grain beetle, Oryzaephilus surinamensis (L) (Coleoptera: Silvanidae), and maize weevil, Sitophilus zeamais Motschulsky (Coleoptera: Curculionidae), were perceived as the most common and damaging pests. Farmers' perceptions of pests were positively and significantly influenced by level of education and farming experience, indicating that education and experience build farmers' understanding of storage pests. Storing maize in unshelled form seemed to result in less pest attack, although majority of the respondents stored their maize in shelled form. Moreover, local maize varieties were perceived to be resistant to pests. The farmers applied various control methods, with sun-drying being the most popular practice. Usage of pesticides was minimal, mainly due to high costs, lack of information, and unavailability of appropriate and effective products. There were also other cultural methods applied, such as use of smoke and insecticidal plants. The respondents decried lack of training and extension services on storage pests and their management, underscoring the need to develop extension services. The underlying mechanisms of the perceived pest resistance in local varieties of maize and cultural pest management methods need to be established for exploitation in development of effective IPM approaches. There is also need to address the challenges hindering uptake of modern storage and control approaches.
Managing storage pests of maize: Farmers' knowledge, perceptions and practices in western Kenya
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