Munya Simango Herald Correspondent
Farmers have been urged to adopt integrated pest management techniques that reduce the use of chemicals to combat pests, weeds and diseases while boosting crop health and productivity.
In an interview at the Climate Smart Farming field day thatwas hosted by the Mhondoro-Ngezi District Agricultural Centre of Excellence (DACE) recently, the extension officer in Ward 11 of Mhondoro-Ngezi District Ms Mativenga Chirwa, said: “Today we are showcasing integrated pest management in tomatoes to motivate farmers to adopt these low cost and environmentally friendly techniques. Adoption of this practice will improve productivity and profitability through the reduced use of costly pesticides and a reduction in crop losses due to pests.”
The field day was held under the European Union (EU)-funded Zimbabwe Agricultural Knowledge and Innovation Services (ZAKIS) project. The project works to harmonise the delivery of research, education, and extension services to farmers through Agricultural Centres of Excellence (ACEs).
The centres were established by ZAKIS in partnership with the Government at Chibero Agricultural College and Matopos Research Institute as well as at district level in Insiza, Mhondoro-Ngezi, Matobo, and Chegutu.
Commenting at the same event, the research and evaluation associate at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) Dr Angeline Mujeyi said that a farmer needs assessment survey that was conducted under the project by the Department of Research and Specialist Services (DR&SS) in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture Education and Farmer Training (DAET) and Agricultural Technical and Extension Services (Agritex), identified pests, weeds, diseases, and water scarcity as the most serious threats to crop productivity.
“We also found that tomato is a key cash crop in this region and Tuta absoluta (the South American leaf miner) is currently the pest that poses the most serious threat to tomato productivity.
‘‘Therefore, to promote innovations that address this challenge, the ZAKIS project supported Government institutions to carry out trials from July to November this year, to evaluate the effectiveness of different pest management options. These included innovations such as the low cost and environmentally friendly tuta pheromone trap and use of different pesticides,” said Dr Mujeyi.
The trials were established at the Chibero ACE and at Chegutu and Mhondoro-Ngezi DACEs in collaboration with ICRISAT, the Crop Protection Unit, the Agronomy Research Institute, and the Horticulture Research Institute.
Ms Chirwa added: “The DACE is making a good impact on the community as farmers can now learn by observing the research, technologies and good agricultural practices that we showcase and demonstrate here.
‘‘This event allows research experts, extension officers and farmers to interact while sharing integrated pest management knowledge for adoption by the farmers to optimise their yields.
“As we go into this cropping season, we recommend that farmers should use pesticides as a last option and that they should rotate the chemicals that they use to avoid pesticide resistance.”
The ZAKIS project is part of the EU funded Zimbabwe Agricultural Growth Programme (ZAGP), a response to the challenges within the country’s agriculture sector through a €40 million financial support package from the EU.
The project seeks to improve Zimbabwe’s agriculture sector by enhancing the dissemination of agricultural knowledge and stimulating innovation through strengthening the working links among agricultural research, education, and extension services.
The project is implemented by a consortium of local and international agricultural specialist NGOs, comprising Welthungerhilfe (WHH), ICRISAT, Community Technology Development Organisation (CTDO), and Sustainable Agriculture Technology (SAT).