Tadele Tefera, Stephen Mugo, Regina Tende and Paddy Likhayo
Maize ( Zea mays L.) is important for agriculture and livelihoods in eastern and southern Africa as it is the major staple food. However, maize yield in Africa is very low, 1.5 t/ha, against a global average of 4.9 t/ha. Constraints to maize production include both abiotic and biotic factors. Among the biotic constraints in maize production, are insect pests in the field and in storage. The most economically important insect pests of maize in Africa include stem borer in the field, and both the maize weevil (MW) and larger grain borer (LGB) in storage (post-harvest pests). Maize plants are less able to tolerate stem borer attack than sorghum and pearl millet plants because they do not produce tillers, and the effect on grain yield is therefore greater. Colonization of the plant by borers, severity of infestation and damage strongly depend on the cropping system, soil fertility, and environmental conditions, which affect the nutritional status of the plant. Stem borer damage is aggravated by the poor nutritional status of the plant. Studies on several stem borers species in Africa showed that an increase in nitrogen is related to higher pest loads and tunnel damage. However, soil nutrient levels, such as nitrogen, also greatly influenced the plant’s tolerance to stem borer attack. This is due to an increase in plant vigor, which is reflected in lower yield losses (Setamu et al. 1995). Damage caused by stem borers can average 20 to 40%, which means between two to four bags of maize are lost out of every 10 that could be harvested (De Groote et al. 2003).
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