Denis Nyamu: Developing an IPM Package for Tuta Absoluta in Kenya

Denis Nyamu

I am Denis Nyamu from Kirinyaga, Kenya and I am currently completing my masters degree in the Department of Entomology, based in Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) in Wooster, Ohio.

Prior to joining Ohio State, I worked with Kenyan farmers in Mwea Kirinyaga county. Through the farmers organization which I headed, I had previous collaborations with Ohio State and Kenya Agricultural & Livestock Research Organization (KARLO) through the IPM Innovations Lab. One of the success stories through this collaboration was the tomato grafting workshops to help farmers fight bacteria wilt, which is a rampant problem in Kenya.

In my five-year experience as an extension officer, pest diagnosis and identification has been a consistent challenge to farmers. Here at Ohio State, my graduate research is focused on an invasive South American tomato pinworm: Tuta absoluta (Lepidoptera: Gelechiidae). The pest was introduced in Kenya in 2014 from Ethiopia and has been a serious threat to tomato growers in the country. Most of the farmers use chemical control to manage the pest, which has since developed resistance. I am working to develop an IPM package to help deter and minimize resistance development. Among the techniques I am exploring is the use of insect growth regulators and plant extracts, as well as biological and cultural control.

Within the first year at Ohio State, I have had several classes and also gained a great deal of experience in working with insects under controlled environments (i.e. greenhouses) and performing experiments in the lab. I have had a great time this far, and made many friends from different countries, but also from my own country. The winter season has been one of my greatest experiences in Ohio so far, especially since my country is tropical, and I am not accustomed to seasonal changes like summer and winter.

Life in Ohio has not been without challenges. A few challenges have come my way though they have never weighed me down. Language and racial issue are among the most conspicuous of all. Learning the cultural difference among nations has been a wonderful experience and learning to appreciate the cultural diversity around the world. An interesting cultural difference I have learned to deal with is the temptation to shake hands every time I come across my friends around the campus. In our country, its rude to not shake hands with a person come into contact with on a daily basis, but in the United States, it is awkward to shakes hands this frequently.

Denis is a graduate student sponsored by United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Innovation Lab for East Africa and led by Ohio State. This major vegetable IPM project seeks to prepare the next generation of agricultural scientists, leaders and food system institutions in East Africa (Tanzania, Kenya, and Ethiopia) through graduate degree training, collaborative research, and human and institutional capacity development (HICD).