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Daily Trust

http://allafrica.com/stories/201408141365.html?viewall=1

By Ojoma Akor
Cocoa is a very important cash crop in Ghana and is one of the main contributors to the country’s foreign exchange earnings. But like other crops, it is also plagued by various diseases and pests.

The Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) is called Tafo Cocoa Station when it was established in 1938 and later changed its name to the West African Cocoa Research Institute (WACRI) in 1944. It has mandate of conducting research to facilitate improved production of disease-free or disease-resistant cocoa, not only in the Gold Coast (now Ghana) but also in other West African countries which were under British rule, including Nigeria.

However, various countries later established their own research institutions after they gained independence and Ghana renamed WACRI as the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG).

The Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria (CRIN) was established in Ibadan, Oyo State, on December 1, 1964, as a successor autonomous research organisation to the Nigerian substation of the defunct West African Cocoa Research Institute (WACRI).

According to the Executive Director of Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG), Dr Franklin Amoah, the institute was established in 1938 after a farmer observed some unusual symptoms on his cocoa tree as a result of diseases, particularly the swollen shoot disease in 1936.

The institute was established to look into the case and other diseases and pests problems that came up. It later became a centre for research for post-graduate students from different countries.

Amoah said when it comes to research on Cocoa, Ghana and Nigeria have many things in common, adding: “The Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria was formerly a substation of our institute until after independence when they decided to be autonomous.

“But since then we have had a lot of collaboration and share a lot of things, including research findings. Virtually every year I travel to Ukraine where I collaborate with the Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria,” he told media fellows of the Biosciences for Farming in Africa (B4FA) when they visited the institute in Tafo, Ghana in April.

He said the diseases and pests of cocoa are major problems but the research institute has been doing its best to keep the disease and pests under control, adding that the two major diseases that affect cocoa are the swollen shoot disease and black pod disease.

“As at now, we are managing the swollen shoot disease, we have not found any major cure for it. It is a viral disease. As I speak over two million cocoa trees have been removed, eradicated, cut out and replanted while the breeders are also trying to develop materials which are very resistant or tolerant to the disease.

“We are also putting other agronomic practices to ensure that the spread of the disease is minimised. We have what we call the barrier cropping where core plot of cocoa is surrounded by two or three lines of non host plants.”

He said the swollen shoot is a major cocoa disease in Ghana, Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire and Togo, adding that the symptoms vary with environmental conditions. The symptoms include the swelling of the root or stem, leaf discolouration and death of the trees, thus, affecting crop yields.

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sci dev logoFrom: Semiu Babalola, SciDevNet,
Published August 12, 2009 10:22 AM

May 21, 2009 09:33 AM

[LAGOS] A variety of soybean resistant to a devastating Asian rust will soon be widely available in West and Central Africa. The rust, a fungal disease that entered Africa in 1996, can wipe out 80 per cent of infected crops.
Scientists from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Nigeria and the country’s National Cereals Research Institute (NCRI) developed the rust-resistant variety, named TGX 1835-10E.
They say it will drastically reduce the rust problem as it has resistance genes for all known types of rust in Nigeria.
“The [rust resistant] variety can be used for direct cultivation in tropical Africa or as a source of resistance genes in soybean breeding programmes,” says IITA soybean breeder, Hailu Tefera. “It was previously released in Uganda by Makerere University and has also already shown excellent performance in trials carried out in southern Africa.”
Nigeria, South Africa and Uganda are the largest producers of soybean in Africa, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.
In 1999, farmers in southwest Nigeria found the leaves of their immature soybean crop rapidly turning brown and falling off, leaving only straggly stems. Tests confirmed the cause was the rust fungus, Phakopsora pachyrhizi.

The breakthrough is important because farmers can plant the new variety without applying expensive anti-rust chemicals. In 2003 — just two years after Asian rust arrived — Brazil lost US$2 billion in soybean harvests despite spending US$400 million on fungicides.
“The new cultivar does not solve the general problem of [all] fungal disease on plants but it does provide relief to farmers faced with the challenges of rust disease without any other solution,” Olumide Shokalu, the NCRI pathologist who led trials, told SciDev.Net.
He says the seeds will be available to farmers by the start of the new cropping season in 2010. The National Agricultural Seed Council and NCRI are producing stocks for distribution, at a token price, through certified seeds outlets.
But Nasiru Ibrahim, of the department of agriculture at Nigeria’s Usmanu Danfodiyo University, sounded a note of caution: “Methods of pest or disease control only work for some time and need periodic review. Pests or disease develop new strains to break whatever resistance is in place.
This article was reproduced with the kind permission of Science and Development Network.

 

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