Pest invasion is one of the limiting factors affecting food production. Tomato leaf miner (Tuta absoluta) (Meyrick 1917) (Lepidoptera: Gelechiidae), is an invasive insect pest of tomato. However, In Kenya, there is limited information on the level of invasion of the pest in tomato producing areas in the country. We assessed the level of invasion of T. absoluta and farmer management practices in Kirinyaga County. Tomato farmers were interviewed using questionnaires aimed at identifying the management practices used by farmers to control T. absoluta and their awareness on the insect pest. Two hundred and eight tomato farmers were interviewed, 90% of the respondents rated T. absoluta as a major pest of tomato. Results show that 94% of the respondents use synthetic chemicals in the control of T. absoluta with an average frequency of 12 times per growing season of three months with the highest frequency being 16 times. Increased use of synthetic insecticides was associated with a negative impact on the natural enemies. Among the interviewed farmers, 52 and 46% of respondents stated that after chemical spraying natural enemies disappear and are killed respectively, while 2% did not know what happened to them. It is therefore imperative to design an integrated pest management program that integrates biological control and environmentally friendly chemicals for sustainable control of T. absoluta populations.
Key words: Synthetic insecticides, management practices, natural enemies, abundance, severity.
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