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Citrus Pests Affecting Production In Kenya

Citrus Farming Threats

Citrus fruit production is a significant contributor to the economy of Kenya, providing employment opportunities and income for thousands of farmers. However, the industry has been facing challenges due to various citrus pests and diseases that affect the quality and quantity of citrus yields. Two of the most serious pests associated with the decline in production are the African citrus triozid (ACT) and the false codling moth (FCM).

According to recent reports, the presence of the Asian citrus psyllid has become a new threat to citrus fruit farming in Kenya. This pest exposes citrus farmers to the dreaded greening disease, which can cause significant damage to citrus trees and lead to reduced yields. Farmers have been struggling to manage these pests effectively, and the government has been implementing various projects and initiatives to combat the problem.

Despite these efforts, the magnitude of citrus yield losses due to pests in Kenya is still a significant concern. Over the years, the most common pressing insect pests that affect citrus fruit in Kenya have been identified to be the false coddling moth, the African citrus triozid, and the Asian citrus psyllid. This article will delve deeper into the impact of these pests on citrus production in Kenya and the measures being taken to address the problem.

Overview of Citrus Production in Kenya

Kenya is a high potential area for the production of citrus fruits, especially sweet oranges, mandarin, and tangerine. These three species of citrus are marketed through both local and international markets. Citrus fruits are grown in various regions in Kenya, including Makueni, Bungoma, and Machakos.

The production of citrus fruits has been declining over the last two decades in Kenya, with very little efforts being put in place to reverse the trend. Citrus growers in Kenya consist mainly of small-scale farmers, and the production of citrus has only contributed 13% of the total area under fruits, with low yields.

According to a study conducted on challenges facing citrus farmers in Makueni County, the major challenges facing citrus production in Kenya include:

  • High cost of inputs such as fertilizers and pesticides
  • Pests and diseases affecting citrus production, such as the Asian citrus psyllid, citrus leaf miner, and citrus greening disease
  • Lack of access to markets and market information
  • Poor infrastructure, including roads, storage facilities, and irrigation systems

Despite these challenges, citrus production remains an important source of income for many small-scale farmers in Kenya. Efforts are being made to address some of the challenges facing the industry, such as the introduction of integrated pest management measures for pests and diseases in selected counties in Kenya, and the development of new citrus varieties that are resistant to pests and diseases.

Identification of Citrus Pests in Kenya

Citrus production is an important agricultural activity in Kenya, but it is threatened by various pests and diseases. Some of the common pests affecting citrus production in Kenya include:

  • Citrus psyllids: These are small insects that feed on the sap of citrus trees, causing yellowing and curling of leaves. They also transmit the bacterium that causes huanglongbing disease, which can kill citrus trees.
  • Citrus whiteflies: These are small, winged insects that feed on the underside of citrus leaves, causing them to turn yellow and fall off. They also secrete honeydew, which attracts ants and promotes the growth of sooty mold.
  • Citrus thrips: These are tiny insects that feed on the leaves and fruit of citrus trees, causing scarring and deformities. They also transmit citrus tristeza virus, which can cause stunted growth and decline of citrus trees.
  • Citrus leafminers: These are small moths whose larvae tunnel through the leaves of citrus trees, causing them to curl and distort. They also create entry points for other pests and diseases.
  • Citrus mealybugs: These are small, soft-bodied insects that feed on the sap of citrus trees, causing yellowing and stunting of growth. They also secrete honeydew, which attracts ants and promotes the growth of sooty mold.

It is important for citrus farmers in Kenya to be able to identify these pests and their damage in order to implement effective pest management strategies. Regular monitoring and scouting of citrus orchards can help detect and control pest infestations before they cause significant damage.

citrus fruit
citrus fruit

Symptoms and Damage Caused by Citrus Pests

Citrus pests can cause significant damage to citrus production in Kenya. Here are some of the common symptoms and damage caused by the different types of pests:

  • Asian Citrus Psyllid (ACP): This pest is responsible for spreading the bacterial disease, Huanglongbing (HLB), which can cause yellowing and blotchy mottling of leaves, reduced fruit size and quality, and eventually, death of the tree.
  • Citrus Leafminer: This pest burrows into leaves, causing silvery trails or serpentine mines. It can cause leaf distortion, stunted growth, and reduced fruit yield.
  • Citrus Thrips: This pest feeds on the fruit, causing scars and deformities. It can also cause leaf curling, defoliation, and reduced fruit yield.
  • Citrus Red Mite: This pest feeds on the leaves, causing yellowing and bronzing. Severe infestations can cause defoliation and reduced fruit yield.
  • Citrus Whitefly: This pest feeds on the leaves, causing yellowing and distortion. It can also cause sooty mold growth, which can reduce photosynthesis and fruit yield.

It is important to identify and control these pests in a timely manner to prevent significant damage to citrus production. Implementing integrated pest management practices, such as monitoring and early detection, cultural controls, and the use of biological and chemical controls, can help minimize the impact of these pests on citrus production.

Management and Control Measures for Citrus Pests in Kenya

Citrus pests are a major threat to citrus production in Kenya, causing significant yield losses and economic damage. Farmers in Kenya use various management and control measures to combat these pests. These measures include:

  • Integrated Pest Management (IPM): This is a holistic approach to pest management that involves the use of multiple control methods to reduce pest populations. IPM includes the use of cultural practices, biological control, and chemical control.
  • Cultural Practices: These include practices such as pruning, sanitation, and intercropping, which help to reduce the incidence of pests and diseases.
  • Biological Control: This involves the use of natural enemies of pests to reduce their populations. Examples of biological control agents used in Kenya include parasitic wasps, lady beetles, and lacewings.
  • Chemical Control: This involves the use of pesticides to control pests. Farmers in Kenya use a variety of chemical pesticides to control citrus pests, including organophosphates, pyrethroids, and neonicotinoids.

However, the use of chemical pesticides has raised concerns about their potential negative impact on human health and the environment. As a result, there is a growing interest in the use of non-chemical control methods, such as biological control and cultural practices.

In addition to these measures, farmers in Kenya are also encouraged to monitor their citrus orchards regularly for signs of pest infestation. Early detection and intervention can help to prevent the spread of pests and reduce the need for more intensive control measures.

Overall, the management and control of citrus pests in Kenya is an ongoing challenge that requires a combination of approaches. While chemical control methods are still widely used, there is a growing interest in non-chemical control methods that are more sustainable and environmentally friendly.

Impact of Citrus Pests on Kenya’s Economy

Citrus farming is a significant source of revenue for both large and small-scale farmers in Kenya. However, citrus production is facing many challenges, with pests and diseases being the most significant factors. Pests such as aphids, black flies, psyllids, False codling moth, scales, white flies, fruit flies, leaf miners, and orange dogs are the most common pests affecting citrus production in Kenya.

The economic impact of these pests on the citrus industry is enormous. Pests and diseases cause a reduction in the quality of marketable produce, leading to significant losses in terms of both quantity and quality. This, in turn, leads to lower profits for farmers and a decrease in the overall revenue generated by the citrus industry.

The cost of pest control measures is also a significant financial burden for farmers. Many small-scale farmers in Kenya cannot afford the high cost of pesticides and other pest control measures, making it difficult for them to manage pest infestations effectively.

Furthermore, the export market for Kenyan citrus is also affected by pest infestations. Many countries have strict regulations on the importation of agricultural products, and citrus infested with pests may not meet these regulations. This can lead to a decrease in exports, which can have a significant impact on the Kenyan economy.

In conclusion, pests are a significant threat to the citrus industry in Kenya. They cause significant losses in terms of both quantity and quality, increase the cost of production, and affect the export market. It is, therefore, essential for farmers and policymakers to find effective ways to manage pest infestations to ensure the sustainability of the citrus industry in Kenya.

Also Read: Orange Farming In Kenya

Sources: Michael, Githae, et al. “Diversity of scale insects (Hemiptera: Coccomorpha) attacking citrus trees in Machakos, Makueni, Kilifi and Kwale Counties, Kenya.” (2021).

Link: http://erepository.uonbi.ac.ke/handle/11295/155226

Rasowo, B. A., et al. “African citrus greening disease in East Africa: incidence, severity, and distribution patterns.” Journal of Economic Entomology 112.5 (2019): 2389-2397. Link: https://academic.oup.com/jee/article-abstract/112/5/2389/5521152

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John Kamau is a highly experienced agriculture expert based in Kenya. He holds a degree in Agriculture from the University of Nairobi and has over 15 years of experience in the field. Throughout his career, John has been committed to promoting sustainable agriculture practices in Kenya. He has worked with small-scale farmers in rural communities to improve their crop yields, implement irrigation systems, and adopt environmentally friendly farming practices. John is also an expert in the use of technology in agriculture. He has worked with organizations to develop mobile applications that help farmers access information about weather patterns, market prices, and best practices for crop management. In addition to his work in Kenya, John has also been involved in agricultural projects in other African countries, including Tanzania and Uganda. He has served as a consultant for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and has been recognized for his work with numerous awards.


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