FARMERS in Nkasi District, Rukwa Region have expressed their fears on the invasion of a dangerous tomato disease known as ‘Tuta Absoluta’, which was for the first time brought into the country in 2014.

For the past one year since the tomato disease was reported in the country, it was only found in the three regions of Arusha, Kilimanjaro and Morogoro.
The Southern Highlands zone, which comprises Mbeya, Iringa, Njombe, Ruvuma and Rukwa regions, was free from the disease.

According to Nkasi District Agricultural Officer, Henry Sing'ombe, the disease is linked with ‘Tuta Absoluta’—a devastating tomato pest, which originated from South America.

‘Tuta Absoluta’ sucks water from the plant through tomato leaves. The leaves are left with pathogen, which circulate throughout the plant ending up with dried leaves, stem and roots.

The official said the disease which was reported to have hit the area in December last year; attacks tomato leaves and thereafter affects the entire growth of the plant.

“When studied, we discovered that it’s ‘Tuta Absoluta’ and we started putting in place strategies to arrest the dangerous tomato miner.

“The strategies include applying pesticides such as March 500 EC, Actra 25 EC and Buffalo100 EC. We managed to reduce the scale of the disease, but we’ve a lot to do to phase-out the disease,” Sing’ombe said.

He added that mixtures of Evisect 50 SP, Escotin 0.15 EC, Covagen 5C and Belt 480 5C, which are very expensive, are also used to contain the disease.

“Other strategies include educating farmers on how to tackle the disease; as well as informing them on the need for them to leave farms affected with the disease for a while.”

The official said his office has contacted the Agricultural Research Institute - Uyole (ARI-Uyole), so that they come up with long-lasting solutions to the disease.

Nkasi District-based farmer Boniface Msafiri said he was afraid that he will not harvest anything in his farm because of the disease.

He said that the disease is very challenging and immediate efforts from different players in the agriculture sector are needed.

Flora Mwaga, who is a small-scale tomato grower in Sumbawanga District, complaining on the new disease, called upon the government to chip-in and assist them on how to do away with the disease.

She also urged extension officers to visit farmers in their farming fields to see how big the scale of the problem is.

The Tomato miner ‘Tuta absoluta’ was reported in Tanzania for the first time in August 2014 in Arumeru District, Arusha Region.

Recently, ‘Tuta Absoluta’ was considered to be a serious threat to tomato production in the Mediterranean region. The newly imported pest from South America finds the shores of the Mediterranean a perfect new home where it can breed between 10 and 12 generations a year.

Each female can lay 250-300 eggs in her life time. The pest is crossing boarders and is destroying tomato production both protected and in open fields.


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