Tanzania tomato price soars

28th February 2015

Tomato prices in the country have soared by 375 percent in just a month, pushing the commodity beyond the reach of majority poor folks due to scarcity of the product resulting from tomato leaf miner pest outbreak.

The pest (Scientifically known as Tuta absoluta) that first hit the horticulture sector at Ngarenanyuki area on the slopes of Mount Meru mid-2014 and later spread to Arusha, Kilimanjaro and Manyara Regions have led to the price of a carton of tomatoes hovering at Sh60,000 ($35.3), up from Sh16,000 ($9.4) in January 2015.
Michael Barnaba, a tomato grower at Ngarenanyuki said the infestation had cut the harvests by more than 80 per cent with only a fifth of the harvest being realised in the last season at his farm.
He said Ngarenanyuki growers, where the crop is grown four times a year, producing over 26,000 tonnes per season and about 104,000 tonnes a year have so far opted to grow other crops.
Meru District Council trade officer Nuru Mollel said, the pests will affect production and income to both farmers and the government because tomatoes grown in the area were consumed locally in the major cities but also exported to Kenya and other Europe markets.
Experts in the sector have repeatedly warned that should the pest continue devastating tomatoes, the country stands to lose nearly Sh300 billion ($176.5 million) in export this year alone.
They say, in the worst cases, the pest infestation could lead to 100 per cent loss of the crop, as it  was feeding on different kinds of crops (highly polyphagous ) and could attack a wide range of (solanaceaous) crops sharing a family with tomato including potatoes, brinjals, and Mnafu.
Dr Brigitte Nyambo from African Insect Science for Food and Health said the disease which was first reported in the northern Tanzania’s, have spread to the coast regions in Tanga and Morogoro.
According to him, an estimated 45,000 smallholder farmers in Arusha, Manyara, Kilimanjaro and Tanga Regions are engaged in the production of fruits and vegetables including tomatoes.
The recent survey by Tanzania Agriculture Sample Census indicates that tomato growers are producing 518,312 metric tonnes per year, representing 51 per cent of the total fruit and vegetable production.
Contacted for comment on the spread of the disease, the Tanzania Horticultural Association (TAHA)’Chief Executive Officer, Jacqueline Mkindi said her association had financed the survey whose scientific findings it shared with the government for a joint pest control plan.
 “Basing on information from tomato growers, the pest, which does not respond to existing control measures, is new to the areas,” she said.
Ms Mkindi said concerted efforts to identify an appropriate management plan are required in curbing the pest, as survey show the damage arising from the disease is considerably high.
She also blamed the government and stakeholders for the delays in controlling the pest since it was first reported mid last year.
Vivian Munisi a trader at Arusha central market said there has been a high demand of tomatoes since January this year because of low production resulting from tomato leaf miner destruction, saying the prices are expected to rise even more.
Tertius Luanda, a farmer from Morogoro region said as of Wednesday, the tomato farm gate prices in the region stood at Tsh50,000 ($29.41) per carton, up from Tsh5,000 ($3) before the pest struck.
Esther Urassa, a tomato consumer in the region says she is compelled to skip tomato in some meals due to spiraled prices.
As of last week, the government was still tight-lipped over the control measures, as Magole farm, the biggest commercial producer of tomato based in Morogoro counting loses following the pest destruction to its 14 hectares.
 “We have lost nearly 1,000 metric tonnes of tomato worth Tsh700 million ($411,764),” the Assistant Farm Manager, James Murege said.
Tomato leaf miner is an invasive foreign pest from South America to affect the country since independence and is so far threatening to wipe out the country’s crop dubbed ‘red gold’.


By Kim Kaplan
July 30, 2015

Escherichia coli O157:H7, a bacterium that causes foodborne illness in humans, is more likely to contaminate lettuce when downy mildew is already present, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists.

Downy mildew, a lettuce disease caused by the fungus-like water mold Bremia lactucae, is one of the biggest problems that lettuce growers must deal with.

But microbiologist Maria Brandl, with the USDA Agricultural Research Service’s (ARS) Produce Safety and Microbiology Research Unit in Albany, California, has been investigating why so many E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks can be traced back to lettuce fields when E. coli O157:H7 sources are as diverse as undercooked beef, sprouts, raw dairy, shelled walnuts, fruits and vegetables. ARS is USDA’s chief in-house research agency.

Lettuce leaves are actually a harsh place for microbes to survive. But the epidemiological evidence is indisputable about how often lettuce is the source of E. coli O157:H7 contamination.

In earlier research, Brandl found that E. coli O157:H7 preferred cut, injured and younger leaves to undamaged and older ones. Then, she collaborated with ARS geneticist and lettuce breeder Ivan Simko from the Crop Improvement and Protection Research Unit in Salinas, California.

They found that under warm temperature and on wet leaves, E. coli O157:H7 multiplied 1,000-fold more in downy mildew lesions than on healthy lettuce leaf tissue. Even on dry lettuce leaves, where most bacteria struggle to survive, E. coli O157:H7 persisted in greater numbers when downy mildew disease was present.

The researchers also found that E. coli O157:H7 did not grow as well in downy mildew lesions on the lettuce line RH08-0464, bred by Simko and a colleague to be less susceptible to the lettuce disease, as the bacteria did on Triple Threat, a commercial variety that is highly susceptible to downy mildew.

The exact factors that caused less growth of E. coli O157:H7 in the more resistant line still need to be carefully explored. But if a genetic hurdle to E. coli O157:H7 colonization could be bred into commercial lettuce varieties along with downy mildew resistance, it would add a new defensive line to contamination of lettuce, helping farmers to improve the microbial safety of their crop as well as control their number-one plant disease problem.

Read more about this research in the July 2015 issue of AgResearch magazine.

Posted: 07/21/2015 12:19 pm EDT Updated: 07/21/2015 12:59 pm EDT

Juhi Chaudhary
Photo credit: Priyadarshini Mitra

Large cardamom yields are falling dramatically across the northeast Himalayas, where a fungal infection caused by climate change threatens one of the world’s most expensive spices.


Large cardamom plantation in Sikkim
Photo credit: Subhra Priyadarshini

As India celebrated its 66th Republic Day this year, chief guest U.S. President Barack Obama watched a display showcasing the rich culture of various Indian states pass by on the Rajpath, New Delhi’s ceremonial boulevard. A beautiful tableau from Sikkim state was covered with rich foliage, showing the tradition of large cardamom cultivation — one of the most expensive spices in the world.

Sikkim, a small state in the northeast Himalayas, accounts for almost 90 percent of India’s large cardamom production, making India one of the world’s largest producers and exporters of the spice. The country earns Rs. 12 crores (nearly $2 million U.S. dollars) for every 1000 million tonnes of cardamom pods.

But all of this is now at stake. The region’s undulating mountains that once offered the perfect climatic conditions and fertile soil for the lucrative crop have turned into a breeding ground for pathogens — which experts believe are caused by climate change. This has proved lethal for the sensitive large cardamom plants, which are now disappearing at a drastic rate.

Surveys show that within the last decade, the cultivation area of this important cash crop, vital for Sikkim’s economy, dropped by half. “According to a baseline survey of large cardamom, the area under cultivation was 23,000 hectares in 2004. This has now [been] reduced to just 12,500 hectares,” says Tilak Gajmer, an entomologist and programme coordinator with Krishi Vigyan Kendra, a front-line agricultural extension centre funded by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research in Sikkim.

When large cardamom production was first hit in the late 1990s, people thought it was some mysterious disease. It was only in 2011 that a group of scientists from the Indian Cardamom Research Institute discovered a fungus — known as Colletotrichum gloeosporioides — is responsible for causing leaf blight.

Large cardamoms — cultivated not only in northeast India, but also in Nepal and Bhutan — need cool, humid conditions to grow. They thrive at an altitude of between 800-2000 metres above sea level under the shade of tall trees like Alder, a type of birch. Once attacked by the fungus, usually during the onset of the monsoon — the cardamom leaves develop grey and brown patches that dry out giving a burnt appearance. The seeds of the infected plants do not mature properly and remain white or light brown rather than turning black.

Moreover, since it is a soil-borne fungus, spores stay in the soil for 10-12 years, making it difficult to get rid of — even once large cardamoms have been replanted.

This blight has had a severe economic impact on farmers who depend on the cash crop, which fetches Rs. 1200- 1400 per kg (U.S. $18-22 per kg).

Pointing to the vegetation on the hills, Pashan Sherpa, a farmer from the village of Perbing in Namthang Block, says in anguish, “All these hills where you are see different kinds of vegetables, were covered with large cardamoms before. But now, you can hardly see them.”

Sherpa — who depends on the agriculture for his livelihood — says, “We had to shift to other vegetables, like tomatoes, radish and chilies. But the money is only in large cardamoms. We used to make enough money to last for years. Now we have only one small patch of large cardamoms.”

Blight spreads

But what has alarmed agro-scientists most is that the problem is not limited to Sikkim. The prized cash crop is losing out to the fungus in Darjeeling, Nepal and Bhutan as well. As scientists struggle to find ways to prevent crops from being completely wiped out, experts say climate change could be a major factor behind the uncontrollable spread of the disease.

“Large cardamom needs a lot of moisture and water in soil. But over the years, winters have become longer, drier and warmer. The soil’s moisture content has reduced which has allowed pathogens to flourish rapidly,” says Sandeep Tambe, a commissioner at Sikkim’s rural management and development department. The decrease in winter rainfall over the past five years has directly affected the spice as well, he says.

According to a book on climate change in Sikkim published by the state government, rainfall in Sikkim has decreased by 335 mm over the past two decades — and the number of rainy days has fallen by 14 days.

Agro-scientists are struggling to find a solution. They have even tried using a chemical pesticide, Copper Oxychloride, although Sikkim has set its sights on becoming the world’s first 100% organic state. But this only contained the disease for a short period: “We are using around 8 kg per hectare. It worked for two years, but the plants succumbed to the fungus in the third year. We are now researching bio pesticides to solve the problem,” says Gajmer.

Poor management of plantations is also another major factor, according to Gajmer. Plantations need to be replanted every 15 years, but most of the plantations that have been affected are over 20 years old. Farmers who procrastinated now have no option but to leave the lands fallow.

“We are now advising farmers to leave plantations fallow for at least seven years and allow nature to take its course to clean up the infected soil,” adds Gajmer.

The way forward

But all is not lost yet. Large cardamom yields have bounced back in certain areas of western and southern Sikkim due to adaptation measures taken by farmers.

Many farmers have shifted plantations to new areas where the soil is relatively healthy. “It is interesting that farmers came up with the solution first and informed the scientists that it was working,” says Tambe. “They are growing large cardamom among their potato plantations where the soil is rich.” In the past, cardamom used to grow with little maintenance, but this new approach means farmers need to water plants and use manure and fertilisers. “But it is still a lucrative option for them considering large cardamoms now sell for Rs. 1400 per kg,” Tambe says.

The government has also come to the rescue. The Horticulture Department is giving farmers large cardamom seeds for free (seeds normally cost Rs. 4-5 per seedling), through a scheme under the Mahatama Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act. The department is also providing manure and assistance with other inputs that are needed to shift the plantations to pathogen-free soils, until another solution is found.

— Juhi Chaudhary

This article was first published in India Climate Dialogue.


Pomegranates in Maharashtra have been affected by bacterial blight (oily spot) disease this season, causing damage to the fruit’s quality by up to 70% in the state.

As a result, prices have been impacted by 30% compared to the previous season, Prabhakar Chandane, chairman, Maharashtra Pomegranate Growers Research Association, said.  Prices of the fruit are Rs 40-50 per kg for the domestic market and Rs 70-80 per kg for export markets, he said.

While meagre exports to West Asia continue, farmers are finding it difficult to meet the requirement of residue- free fruit for European markets, Chandane pointed out.

For last 2 to 3 years, pomegranate crop has been badly affected by bacterial blight disease on large scale where the spots are initially black and round and surrounded by bacterial ooze. The disease may cause up to 90% yield reduction.

According to Chandane, the crop has been affected in Nashik, Indapur and some regions of Marathwada.

Pomegranate is mostly grown in semi-arid tehsils of Solapur, Sangli, Satara, Ahmednagar, Pune and Nashik districts. Maharashtra contributes 90% of the country’s total pomegranate production.

Chandane says the association has this time sought the assistance of the Mahatma Phule Krishi University in the state and scientists of the university have given the association an assurance that the help is on hand. A bio-technologist will be provided to the association to offer guidance to farmers  and the next meeting will be held on August 7, he said.

Besides, the association has decided to form a research team with the university  on how to control the disease. Last year in Indapur region near Pune, the crop was affected by oily spot disease causing a loss of R100 crore to farmers.

According to Chandane, some 20 containers are going to West Asia every week, but no fruit is available for European markets. Maharashtra exported a record 40,000 tonne of pomegranates in 2014-15 season, up nearly 33% compared to the previous season.

Source: http://www.financialexpress.com

Publication date: 7/28/2015

Uncover California

Genetically Modified Diamond moth is Safer Way to Control Insect Pests

Genetically Modified Diamond moth is Safer Way to Control Insect Pests

Diamondback moth, an invasive species of moth, causes severe damage to cabbages, kale, canola and other crops across the world. Owing to which, $5 billion in crop damage has to be faced every year. Now, researchers from Oxford University have come up with a pesticide-free and environmental friendly way to tackle the problem.

Scientists from the Oxford University spinout company Oxitec said that they have developed diamondback moths having self-limiting gene. Introduction of these moths have brought significant decline in the population in greenhouse trials.

The self-limiting gene technique has proved to be successful when it comes to curbing dengue fever-carrying mosquitoes. The technique has cut their population by more than 90% in Brazil, Panama and theCayman Islands.

Study’s lead researcher Neil Morrison, an Oxitec research scientist was of the view, “This research is opening new doors for the future of farming with pest control methods that are non-toxic and pesticide-free”.

Prof. Tony Shelton from Cornell University in the United States was of the view that Diamondback is a big problem for farmers in New York State and across the world. There is a need to have new tools to control the pests as the moths attack the crop and are developing resistance to insecticides.

The genetic modification approach is considered to be safer and better in comparison to insecticides, which can affect a range of insects. Even if the birds or other animals eat the months, they would not suffer harmful effects.

Nature World News

By Catherine Arnold
Jul 18, 2015 06:29 PM EDT
In the world of smaller on small, of microbes thriving in us all, here’s another tale, of nematodes within slugs and other invertebrates. (Photo : Wikipedia Commons)

Ever looked at a slug and thought: Nice public transport, wot? Quite possibly not, but small worms hitch rides on slugs and other invertebrates, researchers have found. They made their report recently in the journal BMC Ecology.


Slugs may be providing rides to much smaller organisms.

Here’s how it works. Nematode worms (including Caenorhabditis elegans), which are about a millimeter long and often live on decomposing fruit or rotting plant material, often need to move to new locations. Researchers have found that they’re traveling long distances by using other creatures’ locomotion, according to the report.

The researchers dissected and analyzed by microscope around 600 slugs and 400 invertebrates (flies, centipedes, spiers, beetles and locusts). Their study found that nematode worms are commonly found in slugs, woodlice and centipedes. When the invertebrates were feeding on rotting plant material, the worms invaded slugs’ digestive organs. Part of the study involved tagging worms fluorescently, then doing a microscopic analysis of dissected slugs, a release said.

Basically, the small worms survived in the intestines, and were excreted alive with the slug feces, the release said.

In other words, kudos to the survivor nematode: “Our study reveals a previously unknown nematode lifestyle within the guts of slugs. The worms appear to have evolved to persist in the harsh environment of slug intestines, similar to a symbiont or even a parasite,” says lead author Hinrich Schulenburg from Christian-Albrechts-Universität, Germany, in a release.

Basically, the worms are able to “travel” via slug or invertebrate for a day at a time. Scientists believe that they likely enter the intestines of other invertebrates after that.

Red River Radio

Entomologists release wasps in Shongaloo and Minden to prey on invasive beetle killing ash trees

The LSU Ag Center and the U.S. Forest Service plan to release hundreds of tiny, nonnative wasps Tuesday in north Louisiana. It’s the second such release of the parasitoid wasp in an ongoing effort to contain damage from an invasive beetle killing native ash trees across the U.S.

LSU AgCenter entomologist Rodrigo Diaz released the first sample of parasitoid wasps July 10 onto an infected ash tree in Shongaloo, La.
LSU AgCenter entomologist Rodrigo Diaz released the first sample of parasitoid wasps July 10 onto an infected ash tree in Shongaloo, La.
Credit Brandy Orlando / LSU AgCenter

The emerald ash borer was found in Michigan more than a decade ago. The beetles reached south Arkansas and north Louisiana this year. LSU AgCenter entomologist Rodrigo Diaz is in charge of biocontrol programs statewide. He says the wasps are released at two sites near Shongaloo and Minden in Webster Parish.

“We basically went to the field and located infested trees. Then, we opened the containers and let these parasitoids free next to the trees that were infested. They immediately start looking for trees because that is where their prey is,” Diaz said, who gets the wasps from a rearing colony in Michigan.

These ash trees play an important role in bottomland ecosystems and also have an economic value to the timber industry. Some insecticides can kill the emerald ash borer and save a homeowner’s ash tree. But that type of control, Diaz says, is not practical on the scale of a forest.

Parasitoid wasps are native to China and are a natural enemy of the emerald ash borer.
Parasitoid wasps are native to China and are a natural enemy of the emerald ash borer.
Credit Brandy Orlando / LSU AgCenter

The issue is, how we manage this pest in forests where of course there isn’t as much as an economic incentive to control these pests. Therefore, we need to find more sustainable alternatives, which is biological control especially in managing emerald ash borer in forested areas,” Diaz said.

Diaz is collecting data on how well the wasps overpower the beetles at these two sites, and will be able to have conclusive results in about one year. Diaz obtained a permit from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to use several species of wasps to manage the emerald ash borer.

The LSU AgCenter is working with the U.S. Forest Service, the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Plant Health Inspection Service to get a biocontrol effort underway in north Louisiana.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 228 other followers