Agronomic factors influencing fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) infestation and damage and its co-occurrence with stemborers in maize cropping systems in Kenya.
Fall armyworm (FAW), Spodoptera frugiperda J.E Smith, (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) is a serious invasive pest of maize that has been established in Kenya since 2016. Little is known about its co-occurrence with resident stemborers, relative infestation and damage and how agronomic factors influence its infestation and damage in maize cropping systems across different agro-ecological zones. This study assessed FAW co-occurrence with resident stemborers, relative infestation and damage across three agro-ecological zones, and the effects of different agronomic practices on its infestation and damage in maize cropping systems in Kenya. A total of 180 maize farms were surveyed across three different agro-ecological zones. FAW infestation and damage was highest in lowlands compared to mid-altitude and high-altitude lands. Its population (eggs and larvae) dominated that of resident stemborers in maize fields. Maize grown under mixed cropping systems, with rainfed production and weeded frequently had low infestation and damage compared to those grown under monoculture, with irrigation and no weeding, respectively. Young vegetative maize plants were more infested and damaged compared to mature plants. Different maize varieties were found to have different infestation and damage levels with Pioneer having the least damage. These results demonstrate that agronomic practices play a role in influencing FAW infestation and damage in maize cropping systems. Further, the population of FAW is dominating that of stemborers in maize cropping systems in Kenya, four years after its invasion. Thus, agronomic practices need to be considered while designing sustainable agro-ecological-based management solutions for resource-constrained smallholder farmers.