Caution as Potato Cyst Nematodes spread in Meru County

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The nematodes are spread through infected uncertified seed or soil that could move from one infected plot to another.

By CLIFFORD GIKUNDA

August 8,2018, Nairobi. Agricultural officers have circulated an alert about the spread of the Potato cyst Nematodes.

Symptoms of the pathogen infection have been noted in several areas of the County but it was in the Timau Sub-County that a confirmation was made.

“Farmers had started complaining of reduction in yields arguing that what they were harvesting was too low yet they did not see any symptoms of any disease on their fields”. Said Mrs Joyce Wambugu the Timau Sub-County Agricultural officer .

Mrs. Wambugu further said that when farmers started complaining her office took samples from 53 plots of the Kirimara Potato Growers group and took them for testing at KEPHIS and all the samples were found positive for PCN

“We took the soil samples from all the plots of the 53 farmers for testing at Kephis and we found all of them to be infected by the Potato Cyst Nematodes”.

The sub-County district agricultural officers have been sensitizing farmers about the disease in Timau collaborating with their counterparts from the neighbouring sub-counties to carry out awareness campaigns to ensure the disease does not spread to other parts of the County and the neighboring ones too.

According to Mrs. Wambugu the PCN was found in the Shangi variety and was most prevalent in the lands cultivated inside the Mt. Kenya forest in the shamba system set up. The disease is spread through contaminated seed, infected farm equipment or infected soils and thus it is very easy to spread from farmer to farmer because its very common for farmers to source for seed potato from their fellow farmers.

“We are cautioning all farmers in the potato growing areas of Meru including Kibirichia and Katheri that they should only source for clean uninfected certified seed potato from accredited seed multipliers in the County to avoid infecting their farms with PCN” she said.

The Potato Cyst Nematodes (PCN) discovered in the country in the year 2014 is likely to wipe out the potato sub sector. says Dr. Solveig Haukeland a Nematologist and lead scientist at the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology

“What makes the disease fatal to potato farmers is that the pathogens once they get to a farm can take upto 20 years lying in wait for any solanaceous crop to attack” said Dr. Solveig.

Solanaceous crops belong to the family solanaceae and include tomato and thorn apple among others.

The Potato cyst nematodes is difficult to be diagnosed by farmers through general observation as they do for bacterial wilt, the PCN does not show any effects on the crop “The crop looks very healthy vegetative but will yield absolutely nothing during harvesting”.

The nematodes are spread through infected uncertified seed or soil that could move from one infected plot to another.

So far the nematodes have been detected in 20 counties including; Nyandarua, Nyeri, West Pokot and Meru. The disease is said to cause over 80% loss in potato yields or in some cases farmers harvest nothing at all.

In Meru, it is believed the disease came in from Nyandarua with the Shangi variety and is so far very prevalent in Asante, Sherekea too. The County agricultural office has been training and emphasizing to farmers about crop rotation.

On resistant varieties Mrs. Wambugu told the Hortinews that she is not aware of any that have been introduced to farmers in Timau area which are resistant to the PCN.

Scientists and some seed companies have been rooting for the newly introduced seed potato to Kenya from the Netherlands like the Geery variety arguing that it is resistance to the PCN, by the time of going to press we were not able to ascertain whether it is as well being multiplied at the Kisima Farm in the same Meru County.

Kisima farm is the leading seed potato multipliers in the country after 3G USAID roll out that was done in partnership with the ministry of agriculture and the International Potato Center that saw the farm install an Aeroponic unit and do multiplication of several varieties of potato for distribution to all potato growing areas in Kenya.

news@hortinews.co.ke

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