Sunday, May 29, 2016 9:11 pm
Agricultural experts at the University of Ibadan on Sunday dismissed plans to import tomato seedlings into the country as a way to tackle the recent outbreak of Tomato disease, Tuta Absoluta.
The disease which has destroyed farms across the tomato producing belt of Nigeria, thereby sending price of the product beyond the reach of many Nigerians.
Dr Morufat Balogun, a Geneticist said importing seeds to cushion the problem would further further drain the nation’s foreign exchange.
She said the Federal Government should direct Plant Breeders/Entomologists to develop new tomato varieties that could adapt to the Nigerian environment.
“Tomato is a short duration crop that breeds fast; when an insect smells something in the plant that puts it away, it can’t feed on it.
“If the gene from such hormones is put in tomato, the pest will not feed on it. That will be a lasting solution.
“A cushioning solution will be when farmers grow their tomato in an insect screen environment, the insects can’t attack it.
“Tomato can be produced anytime of the year. So, government should build screen houses for farmers,” Balogun said.
Another expert, Dr Biodun Claudius-Cole, a Plant Pathologist at the university, said management of the disease should be done using combination of biosecticide method, resistant crops, among others.
“Farmers need to practice good agricultural methods; they must have good land preparation as that manages soil burn, which is one of the problems of tomato.
“They should also be encouraged with inputs and facilities that will help them produce tomato all year round.”
She said the government should ensure that crops like tomatoes coming to Nigeria were quarantined before allowed into the country.
Claudius-Cole said the government should also put necessary measures to control the disease in affected states to stop it from spreading to other places.
An entomologist from the same University, Dr Olajumoke Alabi, said farmers should use insecticide in a systemic way, if they should use it at all.
“We can use bio-control agents like nematode, augmentation to suppress the pest population, we can also use cultural control, whereby farmers uproot and destroy infected crops.”
Similarly, Prof. Olufemi Awodoyin, said government should support farmers to enable them produce crops like tomato.
“In University of Ibadan we still have tomatoes that are not infected, cultivated in screen house. If we survived it other farmers can also survive it.”