Sydney Mubaiwa in Zaka
Farmers here have been advised to be on the look out for the dangerous and devastating Tuta absoluta pest (tomato leafminer), which mainly targets tomatoes, tobacco, eggplants and cabbages.
Addressing farmers and other stakeholders at a Tomatoes Value Chain meeting at the Zaka Rural District Council offices recently, the district’s Agritex officer Mr Kennedy Pedzisai told farmers that early identification of plant pests and diseases was key to winning the war against them.
Mr Pedzisai said successful crop productivity in the country was one of the ways to boost the economy.
“Tuta absoluta has a high propensity of developing resistance to various insecticides that are known to effectively control other leaf miners,” he said.
“The pest is spreading rapidly in the country and has already caused heavy losses of the tomato crop.
“The presence of the primary host, the Tuta absoluta has also had a devastating effect on other closely related crops like tobacco, potatoes, pepper and eggplants. In extreme cases, the pest has also been reported on cabbages, kales and other vegetables of the Brassica family.”
Mr Pedzisai said tests are being conducted to establish effective insecticides that can be used to control the pest.
“We are encouraging our farmers to be on the lookout for plant pests and diseases,” he said.
“I am directing this message to all our smallholder farmers and field extension officers to watch for the Tuta absoluta.”
Mr Pedzisai said farmers who have already encountered the pest in tomatoes must exercise extreme caution when using insecticides.
He said there are incidents here where the Tuta absoluta population is already showing increased resistance as a result of uncoordinated control programmes involving the use of untested pesticides.
Mr Pedzisai advised farmers not to entertain bogus pesticide dealers moving around the district claiming to be agricultural experts.
“We encourage farmers to monitor their crops regularly paying great attention to the lower leaves of tomato or potato plants,” he said.
“Farmers should deal with street vendors who claim to be good pesticide dealers.
“We are very worried that there are some people who are taking advantage of these pests and disease outbreaks to sell fake pesticides to desperate farmers.”