Sydney Mubaiwa in Zaka
Government has stepped up efforts to improve plant health throughout the country as it forges ahead to ensure optimum yields this farming season.
In an interview at the ongoing Plant Health Awareness Campaigns, Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement Minister Perrance Shiri yesterday said in spite of the achievements registered during the last farming season, the country faced outbreaks of new and old crop pests and diseases that threatened agricultural production.
The emerging crop pests that have been reported include the fall armyworm, tomato leaf miners, tuta-absoluta and cotton mealy bug.
“These rampaging crop pests, if not properly managed, have potential negative effects on yield, production costs, livelihoods and exports (agricultural exports). Crop yields can be reduced by 100 percent if these pests are not managed. Some of these pests have been reported in more than one crop,” he said.
He said reports of fall armyworm outbreak in all the country’s farming provinces had prompted his ministry to strengthen its surveillance, awareness, management and control systems.
“The pests are being controlled effectively owing to the availability of chemicals, training, and awareness programmes that provided knowledge of the behaviour of the pest and control methods conducted throughout the country.
“Government, through the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement, is also carrying out surveillance and operationalisation of early warning systems for crop pests such as African armyworm, fruit flies, cereal beetle, armoured cricket, bollworms as well as stalkborers,” he said.
Minister Shiri said the Government had availed resources for use in monitoring crop health countrywide and chemicals to control the rampaging fall armyworm.
He said the Government has already set up teams to monitor crop health in the country’s provinces, a move aimed at guarding against emerging crop pests. “We have teams on the ground conducting outreach programmes especially at the grassroots so that they can reach the farmers and practically train farmers to guard against plant pests and diseases,” he said.
He said the Department of Research and Specialist Services was also conducting research to ascertain crop health in all the country’s major irrigation schemes.
“We want to equate plant health to human health. We have already opened plant clinics where the farmer should bring his or her plants, which they think are not well enough then we look at them and then advise accordingly.
“We have a range of experts. We have people who deal with soil, weeds, pests and diseases, so that they can be able to advise our farmers so that they grow healthy crops,” he said.
Minister Shiri also said there was need to ensure that pesticides used to eradicate pests do not compromise animal and human health.