The Institute of Agricultural Research (IAR) of the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria has conducted a survey on the new tomato disease and advises farmers to always apply their pesticide at night.
The head of Crop Rotation Unit of the institute, Professor Afiniki Bawa Zarafi, made this known during an interview with our correspondent in Zaria.
She said the new disease affecting tomato farms across the country, especially the North, is caused by an insect known as Tuta absoluta, a tomato leaf miner that lives and eats the leaf tissue of a tomato plant.
Professor Zarafi said as part of the institute’s determination to find solution to the problem, its staff had gone to the field to assess the situation.
She said: “We have discovered that the problem was serious, because it is obviously an outbreak. Our staff have collected samples. We were able to identify that the outbreak was caused by an insect known as Tuta absoluta. It was also found that the insects are resisting most of the pesticide that our farmers use.
“According to our investigation, the resistance came up largely because of the quality of the pesticide that our farmers use. Sometime what is written on the package is not actually what is inside. If the manufacturers write the percentage of the active ingredients, but going to laboratory you may find they are lower or even different from what they are claiming.”
She added: “Therefore when a farmer uses such pesticide, he may end up either using wrong chemical or right chemical but with wrong concentration. This results to non-effectiveness and usually leads to resistance. The danger again is that even when a farmer applies the right concentration and right chemical, he may not get the desired result. To our suspicion, that was what happened to these particular insects that are affecting tomato production.”
According to her, tomato farmers are in a serious dilemma because of the outbreak, hence the IAR’s decision to offer some advice.
“Most of the tomato seedlings have gone. Those that have theirs can apply the right concentration and they can do this by contacting the extension officers near them. Second, we discovered that these insects are more active in the night. What the insect does is to protect itself in the day time. Therefore, if farmers must apply the pesticide, they should wait till late evening or in the night. At that time they have chance of getting the insects, because in the day they hide inside the debris,” Professor Zarafi said.
Another way out, she added, is for the farmers to use a combination of pesticides since the insects are resisting single pesticide. She said that the farmers that had this type of problem before were asked to use Neem-based pesticide, though it is difficult to be found in Nigeria.
When asked whether Neem-based pesticide can be made locally, she said: “Yes, Neem-based can be made locally but the problem is the extraction and concentration. We are trying to cooperate with the National Research Institute for Chemical Technology (NARICT), Zaria to produce that, but the problem is the policy, which usually takes time.
“We don’t have quantitative data so far, but all these recommendations were based on the behaviour of the insect, which if followed would assist our farmers.”