Harmful tomato pests invade Kafue

A DEVASTATING pest that mainly attacks tomato crops has broken out on farms in Kafue District and surrounding areas, affecting production.
Kafue District Farmers’ Association chairperson Chuma Sianga confirmed the outbreak of the pest dubbed Tuta absoluta and said the matter had been reported to authorities at the ministry of Agriculture.
Ms Sianga said she noticed some plants and leaves of her tomato crop drying up and sought expert advice at the Zambia Agricultural Research Institute which ascertained that it was the result of Tuta absoluta, also called tomato leaf miner.
She said the pest which attacked tomato production both protected and open fields, could be a challenging pest to control.
This is according to the Zambia National Farmers Union website.
“The moths of Tuta absoluta mine the leaves, producing large galleries and burrow into the fruit, causing a substantial loss of tomato production.
“The larvae feed on mesophyll tissues and make irregular mine on leaf surface. Damage can reach up to 100 per cent,” Ms Sianga said.
She said the pest damage occurs throughout the entire growing cycle of tomatoes and had a high reproduction capability with up to 10-12 generations a year in favourable conditions.
Severely attacked tomato fruits lose their commercial value.
Ms Sianga said chemical control was available, but its effectiveness was limited due to the insect’s nature of damage as well as its rapid capability of development of insecticide resistant strains.
She said the use of biological factors was still largely underdeveloped and not ready to combat this pest effectively in a cost-effective way.
“As larvae are internal feeders, it is difficult to achieve effective control through application of chemical insecticides.
“Moreover, Tuta absoluta can rapidly evolve strains with reduced susceptibility to insecticides that have been previously effective,” Ms Sianga said.

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