Timothy Okumu, a farmer in Bungoma, who used the mating disruption pheromone on his farm (Credit: CABI).

CABI’s collaboration with US-based agri-tech firm Provivi has supported the registration in Kenya of a new biocontrol product – Provivi’s PherogenTM SPOFR dispenser – now being deployed to fight fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda).

Provivi’s PherogenTM SPOFR dispenser has been registered by the Pest Control Products Board (PCPB) in the Biopesticide Category as a mating disruption pheromone to manage the devastating crop pest in Kenya – estimated to cause annual production losses in the country of between US$159-177m.

The registration was granted following the completion of efficacy trials in the country and sets the stage for its widespread use as a low-risk biocontrol product. It provides an alternative to pesticide use for smallholder farmers trying to manage fall armyworm as part of their Integrated Pest Management (IPM) plans.

PherogenTM is a pheromone-based pest control technology, that interferes with the reproductive cycle of fall armyworm. Applied using dispensers installed at a specific spacing in the field, the dispensers release a pheromone cloud in the field. In this cloud, males cannot locate the females, and the reproductive cycle is disrupted.

When this method is used area-wide, the reduced mating decreases fall armyworm population development within the local area without killing the target insect nor harming other beneficial fauna. When used over several seasons, the effect of decreased pest population will be amplified and further reduce risk of damage.

It was reported in a recent survey by CABI that pesticide application is the most common management method employed by farmers in controlling the pest, as they are perceived to be fast acting and are readily available.

However, the ease of chemical accessibility and the notion that hazardous pesticides are an absolute solution creates a dangerous combination that poses tremendous health risks to the farmer and their surroundings, especially where components of such pesticides have been internationally banned and yet still used by the farmer.

During the 2019 and 2020 maize cropping seasons, CABI partnered with Provivi to demonstrate to smallholder farmers the deployment of PherogenTM, using an area-wide approach.

This included the integration of mating disruption with existing IPM methods amongst 309 farmers in three counties in Kenya – Baringo, Machakos and Bungoma, all of which proved successful.

During the same period, CABI conducted a survey to understand farmers perceptions with respect to mating disruption technology after observing how it works. Accordingly, PherogenTM was demonstrated as an effective and safe method in controlling the fall armyworm population.


Provivi’s PherogenTM SPOFR dispenser

Farmers indicated that they significantly reduced pesticide purchases and accompanying labour costs. Women largely recorded considerable savings, as they were previously compelled to hire men for spraying services.

Now, they can safely apply PherogenTM dispensers by themselves and can set aside money earlier designated for chemicals to other ventures. Farmers also reported a reduction in pesticide sprays from three times to once per season as a result of using PherogenTM .

Patricia Ledaa, a farmer in Baringo county said, “We saw changes when we applied PherogenTM , because the cost of applying pesticides reduced. I applied chemicals to my field and hired a man to do it for me. Despite me fetching water for him (to mix pesticides) and buying the chemical myself, I still had to pay for spraying labour. You cannot compare me with a male farmer who will save on costs by doing everything by himself.”

Additionally, the mating disrupting technology was shown to reduce pest infestation and severity of fall armyworm, following scouting by extension workers and farmers on fields where area-wide management of activities was conducted.

Dr Ivan Rwomushana, Senior Scientist (Invasive Species Management), said, “With PherogenTM duly registered, CABI will work together with Provivi in expanding the scale of reach to smallholder farmers in the country, raising awareness of the product and mobilizing farmers, to ensure the technology is implemented on a large-scale for optimum impact.”

“The area-wide application of the pheromone is crucial in realizing change, as individual farm efforts only suppress a portion of the pest population. Overall, PherogenTM  was well received with farmers touting the intervention’s ability to reduce crop damage and pest pressure”, added Dr Samuel Muchemi, Director, Field Development at Provivi.

Mr. Pedro Coelho, CEO, and co-founder of Provivi, commented, “A core mission of Provivi is to ensure the availability of our products to smallholder farmers, who stand to benefit the most from being able to use our safer and reliable technology. Our technology will not only prevent damaging insect attacks, but will help improve the livelihoods of farmers, through improved crops and thereby food supply, without putting their health or the environment at risk.”


Additional information

Main image: Timothy Okumu, a farmer in Bungoma, who used the mating disruption pheromone on his farm (Credit: CABI).

See also the news story: ‘Provivi® announces regulatory approval in Kenya.’

About Provivi

Provivi is a ground-breaking science-based company creating scalable, safer insect control technology that will improve the quality of life for all humans and our world.

Provivi is developing a family of safe, effective, and economical pheromone solutions, creating a new foundation for pest and resistance management in crop production. Pheromones are substances that serve as highly selective attractants for insects, allowing the control of harmful pests while preserving beneficial insects. Provivi’s patented production method enables a step-change in the cost of manufacturing pheromones, allowing the use of this proven tool in high-acreage crops such as corn, rice, and soy.