Potato cultivation threatened by endemic blight in Plateau

By next year, Nigeria risks facing an endemic potato disease which is threatening to wipe out the crop, according to a warning from the potato programme’s unit of the National Roots Crops Research Institute in Vom, near Jos, Plateau State.
Plateau is the largest producer of Irish potato, a cash crop which export has found a spreading market in much of West Africa and other parts of the African continent.
Statistics show that from the year 2000, the state has a yearly output of over 500,000 metric tonnes in production, across over 35,000 hectares of farm in Jos-North, Jos-South, Riyom, Bassa, Pankshin, Mangu, Bokkos and Barkin Ladi local government areas, with a 14.17 yield per hectare.
Now this potato hub which feeds the rest of the country and its neighbours, is succumbing to a potato disease called Late Blight, which is now assuming an endemic proportion, according to Mr. Thomas Yakubu Dalyop, the coordinator and Head of Stations for the potato programme at the institute.
Blight, a fungal infection called phytophthora infrestance, causes first, the spots that are gray-green and water-soaked, but they soon enlarge and turn dark brown and firm, with a rough surface.
Dalyop said a study at the institute showed that the soil in Plateau is as good as a breeding ground for the fungal infection because of damp.
“By next year, we fear potato would be wiped out in the state,” Mr. Dalyop warned in a chat with Daily Trust, yesterday. “This disease has reached endemic proportion in the state, and it is increasing rapidly.”
The institute first reported the blight in 2014 — at which time about 1,000 hectares of farms were affected, reducing the production output.
He said: “By last year, 2015, it was worse because the spread has been rapid. It is even worse now in 2016,” Dalyop said, further disclosing that the chemicals to control the airborne disease are not available for local farmers.
“We have recommended chemicals to control the blight, but they are not readily available in the country.”
He said his office has designed a duty roster to visit private farms, including those owned by its out-growers, as well as hold stakeholders forums to sensitise farmers on the disease, and its prevention.
A farmer, Mr. Emmanuel Shipi, whose farm in Pankshin Local Government Area measures 0.8 hectares, told Daily Trust that his occupation over the years had succumbed to the blight infection.
“Blight has affected all of Plateau. We have suffered serious losses since 2014,” Shipi, who is an out-grower of the institute said.
He, however, said as a preventive measure, he decided to go into irrigation potato farming with minimal chances of contacting the blight.
Only last week, stakeholders, including over 300 farmers in the state, were hosted in Jos to find solution to the disease.
The host, Vicampro Farms Sites, is an investment initiated by various partners in Germany, and taken to Kwol in Plateau on a business projected to become West Africa’s largest producers of potatoes. The farm is on a land about 700 hectares with a production capacity of 30 tonnes of potato. It spreads across two communities of Kwol in Bassa Local Government Area, and Gyel in Jos South LGA.
Ludo Wentholt, the Chief Operating Officer of Vicampro, who enlightened farmers on the prevention of the disease, said spraying the same fungicide created a natural resistance to blight. He also said plant weakness, caused by inadequate application of fertiliser, could cause and sustain blight.

  • Culled from Daily Trust



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