By Oluchi Chibuzor
With the first rains signaling the beginning of another planting season, potato farmers in Plateau State, have adopted measures to mitigate losses associated with the period.
The action was as a result of the peculiar outbreak of a common disease like late blight that attacks crops, especially Irish Potato during rainy season.
They stated this recently in Plateau State, during the implementation of Green Innovation Centre project in Nigeria, held in partnership with Agriculture and Finance Consultants (AFC) and funded by the Deutsche Gesellscaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit GjbH (GIZ).
Mrs. Mary Bwakat, Irish farmer in Maikato, Bokkos Local Government Area of the state, who has been cultivating potato for 15 years, said she was worried that the advent of the rainy season could lead to outbreak of late blight disease.
According to her, “Late blight can decimate yields of Irish potatoes. To manage the disease, farmers are advised to use good quality, disease-free, certified seeds and a variety of good practices. But disease-free seeds are both expensive and scarce.
“I’ve been cultivating Irish potatoes for 15 years now but I have never seen and use clean, certified seeds.”
Plateau State as one of the hub of Irish potato production in the country, the crop is one of the most important sources of income for local farmers. Although the climate in Plateau State is favourable for growing potatoes, there has been a decrease in production, mainly due to late blight.
Adding his voice, the coordinator of the programme at the National Root Crop and Research Institute, Plateau State, Danbaba Anthony, said his organisation engages in research to improve production, processing, and storage of root and tuber crops.
He noted that farmers were advised to use proper spraying practices and positive selection, a process where farmers harvest and cultivate only healthy plants.
On his part, the chairman, Solanum Potatoes and Vegetable Marketers Association, Shippi Emmanuel acknowledged that farmers who were adopting good agricultural practices are no longer scared of late blight and are increasing production.
He, however, listed variety of practices that could help farmers get healthy crops that yield well to include; crop rotation, sole cropping, applying pesticides, and selecting healthy plants for the next season six to eight weeks after planting.
Another farmer, Dawam Jonathan, who also grows Irish potatoes, stated that, “I have adopted crop rotation, positive selection, and proper use of fungicides and pesticides to control potato blight disease.” he said.
Meanwhile, some were of the opinion that the clean certified seeds are not easily accessible for small-scale farmers in the area.