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TN’s hill banana plantations wilt under elephant, viral attacks

A bunch of Hill banana grown in Dindigul, Tamil Nadu

Animal menace, inadequate insurance cover have resulted in shrinking acreage of the fruit

Kochi, April 20

Rampaging wild elephants coupled with Bunchy Top Banana (BTB) disease have hit Hill Banana growers in the Dindigul district of Tamil Nadu.

Found only in the Palani Hills of Dindigul, hill banana — locally called ‘Virupakshi’ — is a highly remunerative crop that can be harvested in 18-36 months .

This specific variety has a commercial importance and it caters only to Chennai market with a sales of around 50,000 fruits per day in the price range of 60-80/kg, said TVSN Veera Arasu, Secretary of the Tamil Nadu Hill Banana Growers Federation.

However, wild elephants straying into the fields in search of food and water have wrought havoc in several areas, causing financial loss to farmers.

The hill banana crop is the livelihood of farmers in 29 villages in the region.

But without any adequate insurance protection available, farmers are starved of funds to start the next crop.

“I have lost around 40 lakh in the last season due to the damage caused by wild elephants in my farm. Majority of the farmers here are scared to come back to banana cultivation,” he said.

Acreage down

Arasu, who was in Kochi recently to attend the farmers conclave organised by the Kerala Farmers Federation, told BusinessLine that the banana acreage has also come down to 3,000 acres compared to 16,000 acres five years back.

The threat of damage discourages new entrants to take up banana cultivation.

“To control the elephant menace, we have an assurance from the authorities to set up trenches and solar fencing for crop protection,” he said.

“We have successfully controlled BTB disease in the early 2000 with the help of Tamil Nadu Agriculture University. As the virus started attacking the plants again, we have approached the National Research Centre for Banana, Tiruchi, along with TNAU for remedial measures”, he said.

Highly remunerative

Among all the plantation crops, hill banana is the only crop which provides a weekly income to farmers, whereas remuneration from all other crops was on annual basis.

The Federation has been successful in obtaining GI certification for Virupakshi and Sirumalai — the two varieties of Hill Banana — a favourite fruit during the British period.

The famous Panchamritham in Palani Temple is made out of Virupakshi banana, the pulp of which is the main ingredient, he added.

 

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Radio New Zealand

29 Mar 2018

Onion crop slashed by disease

6:30 pm on 29 March 2018

The country’s onion crop has been slashed by at least 20 percent because of humid weather which resulted in a leaf disease.

Onions

Photo: RNZ/Carol Stiles

The harvest period is wrapping up for the season, and Onions New Zealand chief executive Michael Ahern said it had been a mixed bag for growers.

The main problem was a leaf blight called ‘Stemphylium’ which has damaged the plants, he said.

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Michael Ahern Photo: Supplied

 

“We’ve had some difficulties in a number of the growing areas … to that end we ran a crop forecast survey recently and we could be down by around 20 percent on yield … even that could be increased by quality issues at packing time.”

The onion industry commissioned Plant and Food Research to find out more about the disease, and this report has been sent to growers.

This year is the worst case of the leaf blight that anyone in the industry can remember, he said.

“No one can recall an attack by this particular fungus to this extent … so that does point potentially to, not a new pathogen, but more changing climate conditions.”

The industry would pour its resources and expertise into finding solutions, Mr Ahern said.

Potato growers also have poor season

Potato growers have also had a tough season – with water shortages, scorching temperatures, and several large storms.

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Chris Claridge said there was increasing evidence that farmers were being directly impacted by climate change. Photo: Supplied

Potatoes New Zealand chief executive Chris Claridge said it was a clear link to climate change.

“What we’re seeing is a direct impact on farmers’ ability to plant and harvest potatoes, which is directly impacted on their profitability, and on our ability to generate export receipts.”

January was the hottest month on record, and that combined with several large cyclones had directly hit farmers in the pocket.

“We’re seeing increasing evidence that farmers are being directly impacted by climate change, and we now have to start the conversation about climate change and how we manage it going forward,” Mr Claridge said.

The key issue was how to make growers and farmers more resilient, he said.

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Newswise

Queen’s Researcher Develops Interactive Map Which Shows How the Irish Potato Famine Transformed Ireland

Released: 12-Mar-2018 2:00 PM EDT

Source Newsroom: Queen’s University Belfast

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    Newswise — A researcher from Queen’s University Belfast has developed an interactive map of the island of Ireland which shows the impact the Great Irish Famine had on the population during the nineteenth century.

    The map is part of a broader research project, which is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council entitled ‘The Causes and Consequences of the Great Irish Famine’, led by Dr Alan Fernihough, Lecturer in Economics from Queen’s Management School to examine both the contributing factors and outcomes of the famine.

    The Great Irish Famine, or the Irish Potato Famine as it also known, was arguably the single greatest disaster in Irish history, lasting from approximately 1845 – 1851. The main cause of the famine was the failure of the potato crop for successive years, which resulted in mass starvation and death from sickness and malnutrition.

    Dr Fernihough analysed a wide number of contemporary data sources, including the 1841 and 1851 Census of Ireland and the Poor Law Commissioner’s reports, in order to compile the repository showing the impact the famine had on the different civil parish areas.

    Talking about the findings from the study, Dr Fernihough said: “As expected, we found from the research that the population dramatically decreased after the famine due to the high number of deaths and high levels of people emigrating.

    “However, we also found that in the larger city areas, the population increased post-famine. Cities such as Belfast, Dublin, and Cork increased in population size as people from the rural areas migrated into the larger cities in search of employment opportunities and relief institutions like the workhouse and fever hospitals.”

    Ireland’s population is believed to have fallen from approximately 8.5 million to just over 6 million during the period of famine, with an estimated one million people dying and over one and a half million emigrating to Britain, the United States, Canada and Australia.

    Dr Fernihough added: “The devastating effect of the Great Famine on the Irish population is well known. However, the uneven spatial distribution of the famine’s impact is given less attention. For example, the population of the parishes surrounding Galway city fell by around 40 per cent, whereas the population of the parish containing Galway city actually rose by 15 per cent. In some areas along Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, for example, the parish of Lackan in County Mayo, the population fell by as much at 60 per cent.”

    The map is the first interactive tool of its kind to combine these demographic, social, and economic data sets in any easy to use mobile-friendly website.

    “The website will be of interest to anyone looking to find out more about the Irish Famine. It’s not just about population loss, the website contains information on the impact of the famine on the proportion of families in poor housing, agriculture, alongside information on literacy. It is a piece of history that you can touch.

    “You can use the location services on your mobile phone to find out the impact of the famine wherever you are located in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, something that would be of particular interest to tourists,” comments Dr Fernihough.

    To find out more about the project and the interactive map, please visit: https://irishfamineproject.com/

    ENDS…

    1. Dr Alan Fernihough, Lecturer in Economics from Queen’s Management School is available for interview. Bids to Zara McBrearty at Queen’s Communications Office on +44 (0)28 9097 3259 or email: z.mcbrearty@qub.ac.uk

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    xinhua_1

    Xinhua

     
    By Ejidiah Wangui NAIROBI (Xinhua) — Kenyan farmer Geoffrey Koech was staring at his ten-acre maize plantation shortly before the harvest with regret and bewilderment, aware that his investment had gone down the drain due to armyworm infestation.

    “We are staring into a disaster,” he told Xinhua in a recent interview as hired labourers geared up to clear the corn that had retarded due to attack by the voracious pest

    Koech’s farm located 159 km southwest of Nairobi was invaded by the fall armyworm (FAW) a few months ago and his efforts to salvage a portion of the farm from the fast-spreading pest were futile.

    He now faces tough days ahead as farming is his only source of income.

    The pests have caught many farmers like Koech by surprise, leaving a trail of destruction that is expected to trickle down to millions of households across Kenya that rely on corn as their staple food.

    “It all started like a joke, during one of my tours around the farm, I noticed some of the plants had been attacked but I thought it is the usual worms that we deal with here. Within two weeks, I couldn’t believe my eyes as most of the plants had been attacked. I tried using pesticides but it was too late,” said Koech.

    He had only heard about the FAW invasion in neighboring Uganda but never thought anything of the sort could strike closer home.

    As small-holder farmers like Koech ponder on their next move, Kenya as a country stares at a 20 to 25-percent drop in maize yields in 2017, further complicating the situation as the East African nation is still reeling from the harsh effects of drought.

    According to the Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI), the caterpillar could cause maize losses costing 12 African countries up to 6.1 billion U.S. dollars per annum, unless control methods are urgently put in place.

    The FAW which was previously reported in Western Kenya has now spread to other regions such as Kwale County in the Coast.

    In its latest “evidence note” report on the FAW, CABI said the caterpillar has the potential to cause maize yield losses ranging from 8.3 to 20.6 million tonnes per annum, in the absence of any control methods, in just 12 of Africa’s maize-producing countries.

    According to the report, FAW should be expected to spread throughout suitable habitats in mainland sub-Saharan Africa within the next few cropping seasons.

    Northern Africa and Madagascar are also at risk. In September, 28 countries in Africa confirmed presence of the pest, compared to only 12 five months earlier.

    A further nine countries have conducted or are presently conducting surveys, and either strongly suspect its presence or are awaiting official confirmation.

    According to Roger Day, CABI’s Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Coordinator, to avert the looming food crisis, affected nations need to come up with an integrated approach to deal with the crisis.

    “Work must also start to assess which crop varieties can resist or tolerate FAW. In the longer run, national policies should promote lower risk control options through short-term subsidies and rapid assessment and registration of bio pesticides and biological control products,” Day said.

    Immediate recommendations in the report include raising awareness on FAW symptoms, early detection and control, and the creation and communication of a list of recommended, regulated pesticides.

    “If I was well informed on what to look out for and what to do when I discovered the first worm, I believe I could have saved close to a quarter of my farm from being invaded,” said Koech.

    In July, Kenya’s Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett expressed concern over the FAW invasion saying the country’s food security was at stake as production in 2017 is forecast to drop by 9 million bags.

    The worm, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), is native to the Americas but there is no documented evidence to indicate how it crossed oceans to land in Africa.

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    fall-armyworm-frontal-MER-563x744FAW on corn leavesfall-armyworm-frontal-MER-563x744

    Maize damaged by the fall armyworm, Spodoptera frujiperda

    Photos courtesy of Marlin E. Rice

     

    Fall Armyworm Workshop for East Africa

    Harmony Hotel, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, July 14-15, 2017

     Background

    The Fall Armyworm (FAW), Spodoptera frugiperda, a native to the tropics and sub tropics of North and South America, is a polyphagous pest attacking more than 80 different plant species, including maize. Maize is a major food staple in sub-Saharan Africa upon which more than 300 million people depend. Depending on the degree of infestation, the FAW can cause huge losses in maize yields and in some cases, total crop loss.

    This pest has recently invaded Africa and is ravaging crops in more than 20 countries. It was first reported in Nigeria, West Africa, in early 2016. It soon spread to southern Africa in late 2016 and by early 2017 was confirmed to be in East Africa. If it is not effectively controlled, it is expected to cause $3bn loss to maize in Africa along with serious food shortages expected in the next year.

    Needed action

    Rapid action, immense awareness creation, and technological innovation, along with national, regional and international collaboration are required to thwart the threat of the fall armyworm in order to avoid severe economic losses among smallholder farmers across Africa. Crucial concerted efforts from international research centers, national research and extension programs, international development organizations, policy makers, and donor communities in East Africa are required to develop and deploy an effective integrated pest management strategy, which can provide sustainable solutions to effectively tackle the adverse effects of the FAW. Millions of East African farmers are currently on the road to recovery from last year’s shocking drought that resulted in a humanitarian crisis. Now, they are facing this new threat to their livelihood.

    Workshop objectives

    To effectively fight this pest, the IPM Innovation Lab/ Virginia Tech and USAID, in partnership with icipe, is organizing a regional FAW awareness and management workshop. This workshop will bring stakeholders and experts from the United States, Ethiopia, Kenya, Niger, and Tanzania to share their experiences and challenges in dealing with the FAW. The workshop will also include discussions on needed action in terms of research and development in the region. The results and recommendations made from this workshop will be used as feedback to design an effective management strategy to manage the FAW in East Africa and beyond.

    On behalf of the workshop organizers

    Tadele Tefera

    Country Head icipe Ethiopia, PI for IPM Innovation Lab Grains IPM for East Africa Project and IAPPS Coordinator, Region V East Africa

     

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    How Kenya is soldiering on in war against armyworms – Daily Nation

    The good, bad and ugly in fight against armyworms

    Friday May 12 2017

    Patrick Wanjala, a maize farmer in Namanjalala, Trans Nzoia County displays a maize plant attacked by armyworm in his farm.

    Patrick Wanjala, a maize farmer in Namanjalala, Trans Nzoia County displays a maize plant attacked by armyworm in his farm. The pest has potential of causing famine since the larva not only feeds on staple food crops but also grass, pasture and any green vegetation. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

    By STANLEY KIMUGE
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    From far, Malaki village, about some 6km from Kitale town in Kwanza in Trans Nzoia County, is lush green, with farms teeming with the maize crop. Nothing looks unusual at various fields but as one moves closer to the maize farms, a different story unravels.

    The maize crop has been ravaged extensively by the fall armyworms, with the area being the worst affected by the pests.

    Patrick Wanjala, a maize and beans farmer, bends for the umpteenth time looking at his crop. His face is forlorn showing the anguish and frustration that the pest has caused him.

    “I have never seen anything like this before in my life as a farmer. I am not sure if I will harvest any maize this season.”

    Under normal circumstances, he would have harvested between 60 and 70 90kg bags from his one-and-half-acres.

    “It started with small holes on the plants’ leaves and I thought it was just the stem borer as that is the common pest here. I sprayed but nothing changed then reports of the armyworms having invaded the region filtered in,” recounts Wanjala.

    In a bid to tame the notorious pest, Wanjala said he applied ash and even red soil as desperation set in.

    “I tried that hoping that it would work but it was all in vain,” says Wanjala, whose crop was attacked some two months ago.

    Then hope came when the government announced that it was coming up with measures to tackle the pest that is a threat to food security since it is destroying maize.

    Armyworm has potential of causing famine since the larva not only feeds on staple food crops (maize, wheat, millets and sorghum) but also grass, pasture and any green vegetation mainly on the leaf lamina, leaving only the mid-rib

    A team was set up at the county and national level to co-ordinate the fight against the worms.

    But to date, Wanjala says he has not received any chemicals from either the county or national government as promised.

    “I have been to the county offices several times hoping to get chemicals in vain. Two days ago I went there. More than 2,000 of us had turned up and the chemicals were not enough despite the little amounts they were giving,” says Wanjala, who is yet to spray any chemicals on his maize crop.

    ONGOING RAINS

    So far, according to the county government, some 15,000 acres of maize have been affected in the region, but the inspection of the fields is ongoing to ascertain exact figure.

    The ravenous pest has fed on the “heart” of most of plants leading to stunted growth.

    Trans Nzoia County, which is the country’s food basket has borne the brunt of the armyworm attack, with an estimated thousands acres of maize having been ravaged.

    County’s chief agriculture officer Mary Nzomo says the county is distributing chemicals to farmers to contain the situation, though they are not enough.

    “We have been able to spray about 10,000 acres out of the over 15,000 affected by the pest,” says Nzomo, noting an adult worm lays up to 2,000 eggs and it’s important to kill them before they become adults to avoid spreading. Besides spraying, she says the county has taken other measures to curb spread, which include sensitisation of farmers.

    Maize crop attacked by the pest in a farm.

    Maize crop attacked by the pest in a farm. Normally, the pests feed in the evenings and early morning. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

    “We are holding public barazas where we also distribute educational flyers and we do on-farm demonstrations. We are currently holding talks on FM radios as well as print and broadcast media to spread the message,” she says.

    She notes despite promise by the national government that they will get chemicals since it recommended the spraying be done three times, no pesticides have been distributed to them and in the nearby Uasin Gishu County.

    “Those farmers that have sprayed have noticed the chemicals are working. What we are telling farmers is that if you spot the pest in your area, you need to spray all maize plants including those that have not been attacked to avoid re-infestation,” says Nzomo.

    Other factors are also hampering the struggle to eradicate the pest including the rains.

    “Sunny and humid conditions help control multiplication of the pest but with the ongoing rains, it becomes a challenge to spray. Normally, the pests feed in the evenings and early morning and this is the time we are asking farmers to spray, but with the heavy rains, when they spray the chemicals are washed away.”

    The farmers have been advised to spray at least three times in two weeks after germination, when the crops are knee-high and during the formation of the tarsals (about the flowering stage) to control the pest.

    SALVAGE CROPS

    Last month, Trans Nzoia set aside Sh45 million while Uasin Gishu Sh2 million to fight the pest.

    “This was to cover about 20 per cent of farmers, mainly small-scale. On average, the cost of spraying is about Sh2,000 per acre but we are assisting to do one spraying for farmers,” says Nzomo.

    Joseph Cheboi, Uasin Gishu County Director of Agriculture, says that four out of six sub counties have reported armyworm infestation, with Soy and Moiben that border Trans Nzoia County being worst hit.

    Bernard Kimuiguei, a farmer in Kipsombe in Soy, says that his 20 out of 40 acres under maize has been affected.

    “I was given some chemicals by the county officials but they were too little. I have to dig deeper into my pockets and it is really costly,” he says.

    Dr Victoria Tarus, county chief officer in-charge of agriculture, says approximately 600 acres have been infested but they are distributing chemicals to farmers.

    Robert Aluda, a farmer in Namanjalala Trans Nzoia, says besides the failure to get pesticides, lack of information on how to control the pest is also the biggest setback.

    Trans Nzoia County Deputy Governor Stanley Tarus, Agriculture Chief Officer in the county Mary Nzomo and farmers during the launch of Fall Armyworm Management Campaign

    Trans Nzoia County Deputy Governor Stanley Tarus, Agriculture Chief Officer in the county Mary Nzomo and farmers during the launch of Fall Armyworm Management Campaign in the county on May 09, 2017. Farmers whose maize crop had been infested were given pesticides to fight the invasion. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

    “If we knew from the beginning what the pest was and how to eradicate it, we would have salvaged our crops. We just heard on the radio that a pest had crossed the Kenya-Uganda border but we thought it won’t be that destructive so we did not act fast,” says Aluda, who took a bank loan of Sh50,000 and sank into the maize farm.

    But it is not all gloom. Charles Sawe from Moiben says he bought himself chemicals recommended by agricultural extension officers and he has been able to clear the worms on his expansive farm.

    He says that only few farmers have received the government chemicals.

    UNDER CONTROL

    The government recommended the following chemicals; Duduthrin, Twigapyrifos, Belt, Match, Ranger, Loyalty, Integra, Orthene, Jackpot, Imaxi. They are also using cocktails and are working well.

    Other chemicals include Chlorpyrfos, Alpha Cypermerthrin , Indoxarb, Di Ubenzuron, Clorantraniliprole and Spinetoram.

    At the Coast, where there was African armyworm attack, farmers have reported success in eradication of the pest. In Taita Taveta County, the armyworms invaded Njukini and Challa within the agriculturally rich Kasigau-Maktau belt and some parts of Mwatate.

    Agriculture chief officer Evans Mbinga said the worms invaded 25 hectares under maize crop as well as some ranches. “At least 60 farmers were affected by the armyworms invasion, which followed rains after a prolonged drought. Following the rains, new grass sprang up and it created a conducive environment for the armyworms to multiply,” he explains.

    The agriculture official says the county has brought the armyworm invasion under control after spraying pesticides on affected farms. “County field officers teamed up with farmers in spraying the pesticide known as Cypermetherin which wiped off the armyworms.”

    Joseph Ivuso, a farmer in Taita, whose 2.5 acres of maize were invaded says he eradicated the pest with the help of county agricultural officers.

    In Kwale County, the director of agriculture David Wanjala says the armyworms invaded 25 acres of maize in Lunga Lunga.

    However, he noted that the pests did not cause a big damage. “When the farmers planted maize, the moths were at pupae stage in the soil, so when the rains started pounding the region they easily drowned.”

    But despite the rains wiping away the pests, Wanjala says the county is expected to receive 1,000 litres of pesticide from the national government next week, which would be used in case the worms reappear.

    Additional reporting by Mathias Ringa

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    The FAO estimates that up to 40% of global crop yields are reduced each year due to the damage caused by pests (FAO, 2015). Crop losses have a huge impact on the livelihoods of smallholder farmers. They result in less food for them and their families and a lower income for spending on education and […]

    via Pest Risk Information Service for sub-Saharan Africa — The Plantwise Blog

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