Cabbage farmers urged to be wary of diseases

Tariro Stacey Gatsi

GOVERNMENT has called on cabbage farmers to maintain vigilance against diseases citing their detrimental impact on the economy and profitability of cabbage farming, especially for small-scale farmers with limited resources.

Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development chief crop production specialist Mrs Hilda Manditsvara highlighted the damage pests and diseases can cause on cabbages.

Pests that can affect cabbages in Zimbabwe include cabbage aphids (Brevicoryne brassicae). These are small, soft-bodied insects that feed on cabbage plants by sucking sap from the leaves. They can multiply quickly and cause stunted growth, curling of leaves, and the development of sticky honeydew. They can also transmit viral diseases.

“Cutworms (Agrotis spp) are the larvae of certain moth species. They feed on the stems of young cabbage plants, cutting them near the soil surface and causing seedling death. Cutworm damage is often more severe during the early stages of cabbage growth.

“Brassica Stunting Disorder (BSD): Turnip Yellows Virus (TuYV) causes BSD. Turnip yellows virus (TuYV) is a phloem limited virus transmitted persistently by many aphid species, but the green peach aphid is the most important vector. When the infective aphid feeds on the phloem of a healthy plant, it transmits the virus.

The destructive virus can reduce the cut rate of a crop by up to 60 percent. Infection typically occurs four to six weeks after transplanting. Its symptoms are purpling of leaf margins followed discolouration of the vascular system and normal head versus small heads.

Mrs Manditsvara further emphasised that diseases can significantly reduce cabbage yields by affecting plant growth and development, which has damaging effects on the country’s economy.

“Infected plants may exhibit stunted growth, reduced vigour and lower productivity. This can lead to decreased harvests and lower marketable cabbage production, resulting in financial losses for farmers.

There is also decreased market value due to diseases such as blackleg, clubroot and alternaria leaf spot that can cause blemishes, discoloration, and deformation of the cabbage heads, making them less marketable. This can result in lower prices and reduced profitability for farmers, impacting their income,” she added.

The plants must be protected from insects by timely spraying of pesticides. Regular watering is highly recommended as the crop should never be stressed.

She added that Zimbabwe exports agricultural products that include cabbages to regional and international markets. However, the presence of diseases in cabbage crops can lead to trade restrictions and phytosanitary regulations imposed by importing countries.

If diseases are widespread and not effectively managed, it can result in reduced export opportunities and loss of potential foreign exchange earnings for the country.

The economic impact of cabbage diseases extends beyond the directly affected farmers.

“It can also affect other stakeholders in the agricultural value chain, such as input suppliers, transporters, wholesalers, and retailers. Reduced cabbage production and marketability can disrupt supply chains, leading to job losses and reduced economic activity in related industries,” said Mrs Manditsvara.

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