The National Horticultural Research Institute (NIHORT) in Ibadan has urged tomato farmers to ensure the burning of tomato and plant debris to prevent tomato pests from hibernating after harvesting.
NIHORT Executive Director, Dr Abayomi Olaniyan, gave the advice in an interview in Ibadan.
Olaniyan was reacting to the tomato pest infestation in some northern states which had resulted in the high cost of the commodity in the market.
He advised the farmers to always use NIHORT Tuta trap tray designed by the institute to monitor adult Tuta infestation so as to kill the insect and prevent egg laying on leaves in the nursery and field.
Olaniyan said NIHORT had reared and released an indigenous predator (Nesidiocoris tenuis) in some farms in five major tomato producing states of Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina and Plateau.
He added that it formulated two bio-pesticides (NIHORT Lyptol and Raktin) with no side effects on human health, the environment and non-target organisms for the production of healthy and safe tomato devoid of pesticide residues.
To tackle pest infestation, he said the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture funded NIHORT to develop an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategy which was an effective approach to Tuta pest management.
According to him, the IPM relies on the practical application of a combination of sustainable environmental friendly principles for the containment of the pest in Nigeria.
He added that NIHORT in collaboration with FAO and Federal Ministry of Agriculture had trained 200 farmers from tomato producing states in the North, 40 extension officers, 10 scientists and 10 National Agricultural Quarantine Service Officers on the practical aspect of the developed IPM strategy.
“Following the recent report of Tuta infestation in Kano, NIHORT contacted members of Kano State Project Implementation Committee and gathered that some farmers, including Dangote farm don’t have infestation.
“The farmers with infestation attributed it to the lockdown as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“They explained that the lockdown period coincided with the period of high temperature in Kano when Tuta infestation is predominant.
” Farmers couldn’t monitor and give proper attention at that time thereby leading to the devastating infestation experienced.
“Kano state tomato farmers being part of the beneficiaries of the FAO Tuta project training were not oblivious of the IPM of Tuta but for COVID-19 pandemic lockdown which prevented them from attending to their farms,” he said.
According to him, tomato leaf miner (tomato ebola) is a serious pest of tomato which also attacks solanaceous plants such as eggplant and potato.
He recalled that the pest invaded Nigeria in 2015 and completely ravaged tomato farms leaving farmers with zero yields and resulting in insecurity, poverty, unemployment, reduced rural income and high importation of tomato paste.
“COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown of stakeholders which prevented farmers from attending to their farms to apply necessary control measures may be a contributing factor to high price of tomato being experienced across Nigeria,” he said.
NIHORT has the mandate to conduct research into the genetic improvement, production technologies, processing, storage, utilisation and marketing of fruits, vegetables, spices and ornamental plants of nutritional and economic importance.
The institute is the only horticultural research institute in Nigeria saddled with these responsibilities.