Tobacco grow­ers ig­nore stalk de­struc­tion dead­lines

The Manica Post - - Business/farming - Sa­muel Kadun­gure Se­nior Re­porter

THE in­ci­dence and sever­ity of tobacco dis­eases and pests such as ne­ma­todes and spi­der mites is threat­en­ing to dent the qual­ity of the 2017/ 18 gold leaf as grow­ers in Man­i­ca­land con­tinue vi­o­lat­ing the statu­tory dead­lines for de­struc­tion of stalks.

Ac­cord­ing to the Plant Pests and Dis­eases Act (Chapter 19: 08), tobacco grow­ers should clear all stalks from their fields by May 15 of ev­ery year - but two months af­ter the lapse of the dead­line, most fields in the prov­ince are still in­fested with the crop residue and re- growths which act as hosts for dis­eases and pests like ne­ma­todes and spi­der mites.

De­struc­tion of stalks – ei­ther by cut­ting the stems and plough­ing or disk­ing the fields to pull roots out of the soil and ex­pose them to the sun – starves and averts carryover of pests and dis­ease into the next farm­ing sea­son.

Slash­ing tobacco st alk s and spray­ing the sub­se­quent re- growth with glyphos­phate was ef­fec­tive, but many farm­ers com­plain that it is ex­pen­sive.

Tobacco re- growths can be ef­fec­tively de­stroyed by spray­ing glyphos­phate.

The de­lay has raised se­ri­ous and gen­uine fears on the pos­si­bil­ity of the pass­ing- on of pests and dis­ease into the 2017/ 18 sea­son. If tobacco stalks are not de­stroyed, as is the case in prime tobacco grow­ing ar­eas like Odzi, Nya­ma­jura, Nyazura, Rusape and Head­lands, among other ar­eas where farm­ers have ig­nored the di­rec­tive, associated dis­eases and pests will af­fect yield qual­ity and in­crease the farm­ers’ in­put costs.

Tobacco In­dus­try and Mar­ket­ing Board ( TIMB) spokesper­son, Mr She­unesu Moyo, said the coun­try could only max­imise eco­nomic value by stick­ing to sus­tain­able and re­spon­si­ble tobacco pro­duc­tion prac­tices.

Mr Moyo said TIMB was em­pow­ered by the Plant Pests and Dis­eases Act (Chapter 19: 08) to take rad­i­cal ac­tion against all er­rant tobacco farm­ers.

Apart from TIMB, tobacco grow­ers who fail to de­stroy tobacco stalks on or be­fore the May 15 can also be re­ported to the De­part­ment of Re­search and Spe­cial­ist Ser­vices’ Plant Quar­an­tine Ser­vices In­sti­tute ( PQSI), AGRI­TEX and Tobacco Re­search Board ( TRB).

Mr Moyo said tobacco pests and dis­eases can only be ef­fec­tively con­trolled if farm­ers de­stroy stalks im­me­di­ately af­ter the fi­nal har­vest.

“If farm­ers want to keep stalks for any rea­son, they should seek per­mis­sion from the De­part­ment of Re­search and Spe­cial­ist Ser­vices ( Plant Quar­an­tine Ser­vices In­sti­tute).

“Oth­er­wise, we ex­pect stalks to have been de­stroyed by May 15 to avoid carryover of dis­eases. Fail­ure to do so will re­sult in farm­ers be­ing fined,” said Mr Moyo.

For con­tra­ven­ing reg­u­la­tions re­quir­ing the de­struc­tion of tobacco plants by a spec­i­fied date or pro­hibit­ing the plant­ing of tobacco plants be­tween spec­i­fied dates, a grower will be sub­jected to a fine not ex­ceed­ing $100 for each hectare or part thereof in re­spect of which the of­fence is com­mit­ted or im­pris­on­ment for a pe­riod not ex­ceed­ing one year or both fine and im­pris­on­ment.

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