Tobacco farmers warned over keeping stocks in fields

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By Staff Reporter

ODZI – Tobacco contractors have warned farmers who fail to destroy their stocks after the harvest that they risked not receiving any assistance next season.

The threats follow reports that some local farmers were not uprooting their stocks which are reported to be main carriers of a mealy bug plant pest which reduces yields and spreads faster to other crops.

Mealy bugs are insects in the family of pseudococcidae, which are unarmored scale insects found in moist, warm habitats.

They feed on juices of greenhouse, house and subtropical trees and also act as a vector for several plants.

A local contractor Vodcell said tobacco contractors will be tougher next season on non-compliant farmers.

“Farmers who do not comply with the order to destroy left over stock are going to be deemed none compliant and face the risk of not receiving farming inputs in the next calendar year,” said Vodacell representative  Newford Katsvere during a stakeholders meeting which was convened by Tobacco Research Board (TRB).

TRB entomologist Zimazile Jazi also emphasised the need for farmers to uproot plants from previous seasons when they entered a new farming season.

She said the left-over stock was one of the main carriers of the mealy bug plant and aided it to spread faster.

“A conscious farmer does not need to be told to destroy their crops when the farming season ends. The mealy bug thrives in the abandoned plant and poses a danger to all other surrounding farms as they are capable of spreading rapidly,” she said.

TRB chief executive officer, Dalia Garwe advised farmers to rotate the use of aphid pesticides as a measure of eradicating the mealy bug pest which is feeding on the tobacco plant and reducing yields.

She said growers should use pesticides interchangeably so as to prevent the mealy bug from mutating and developing immunity if they only use a single pesticide to treat the tobacco plants.

“The mealy bug mainly leeches on the cotton plant; however, this is a new phenomenon we are witnessing where it is feeding on the tobacco plant.

“Our initial research has shown that the mealy bug belongs in the aphid family of pest’s. As such, we can use the normal pesticides we have always used.

“In order to counter the mealy bug, we must rotate our pesticides and not use single line treatment in spraying our tobacco crops. That way the bug will not develop immunity against a single pesticide,” said Garwe.

Zimbabwe is the largest grower of tobacco in Africa, and the 6th largest grower in the world.

Three types of tobacco have traditionally been grown in the country: Virginia flue-cured, burley and oriental tobacco.

Over 95% of Zimbabwe’s tobacco consists of flue-cured tobacco, which is renowned for its flavour. The cash crop is a major part of Zimbabwe’s economy.

In 2017, tobacco accounted for 11% of the country’s GDP, and 3 million of the country’s 16 million people are tobacco farming for their livelihood.

The main export market is China, which purchased 54% of Zimbabwe’s exports in 2015.