Fawligen, a biological control product for managing the fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) has been formally registered by the Pest Control Products Board (PCPB) for use in Kenya.

Formally launched on 28th May 2021, this represents a culmination of efforts started in 2018 under the CABI Action on Invasives programme that aimed to develop lower risk and sustainable biological control strategies for the pest. Fawligen – a baculovirus is one among many lower risk methods that have been shown to sustainably manage the fall armyworm over the long term.

Research shows that smallholder farmers often prefer synthetic pesticides, especially during devastating pest and diseases invasions to mitigate yield losses. These chemical solutions though effective when correctly used, offer temporary relief and because they are often misused, they leave long lasting negative impacts on human health and the environment.

But the situation is slowly changing with a study done in Nyeri, Embu, Machakos, Narok and Trans Nzoia, counties in Kenya showing 4 in every 10 women farmers preferred to use biopesticides citing safety as one of the main reasons for their choice. Fawligen’s registration presents such farmers with more sustainable options to choose from. It is important to note that this should be supported by awareness efforts plus a wholesome integrated pest management approach to sustainably manage the fall armyworm.

CABI conducted evaluations and trials with the product between 2018 and 2020 in Kenya and South Sudan, in partnership with AgBiTech- a private sector partner and innovator in biological pest controls, the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT), United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Kenya Agriculture Livestock and Research Organisation (KALRO) and South Sudan Ministry of Agriculture. The trials and the subsequent training and support to lead farmers who used the product on their farms, demonstrated a 63% yield advantage over untreated fields. Following these successful treatments, 95% of farmers surveyed indicated that they would use Fawligen if it was available at an agrodealer near to them, and at a price comparable to chemical pesticides.

Dr Ivan Rwomushana, Senior Scientist (Invasive Species Management), said, “This registration adds to CABI’s efforts aimed at making safer and sustainable alternatives available for use in managing the fall armyworm in the region. We have supported efforts on a growing arsenal of biopesticides that will hopefully reduce over-reliance on synthetic pesticides and embolden a biological based strategy in managing invasive species across Africa in the long term.”

Dr Shachi Gurumayum, Head of Africa and South Asia for AgBiTech, added, “Following the registration of Fawligen in Kenya earlier this year, we are excited to commercially launch this proven and safe technology with our partner UPL Ltd. We share a broader vision with UPL to provide African farmers with effective and safe solutions for integrated pest management.”


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Photo: fall armyworm (credit: CABI).

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