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Courgette farmers battle leaf curl disease

By Lydiah Nyawira | August 6th 2016

Courgette (Zucchini) crop is under attack from a devastating disease known as leaf curl disease.

During a two-day farmers field day event which attracted over 27,000 farmers from six counties in Mt Kenya, several growers of the crop confirmed to Smart Harvest that it was true their crop is under attack by this viral disease.

At the meeting that attracted seed and agrochemicals experts, farmers were told there is no remedy yet. A disease resistant variety has also not been discovered.

Agri Seed Co Ltd Mt Kenya region manager Sam Kimani, confirmed that the research departments for various companies were working overtime to come up with a leaf curl resistant courgette seed variety.

“The leaf curl disease attacks the leaves of the crop and causes them to curl which in turn affects production, size and texture of the plant,” Kimani said.

He explained that once it attacks the plant, the courgette get a rough outer skin which makes the produce unfit for the export market.

“The problem is that the leaf curl disease is mutating every two to four years and these leaves the seed and agrochemicals companies scrambling to beat the disease and farmers counting losses,” Kimani said.

Lydia Kabugo a Nyeri courgette farmer said she had abandoned the crop because of its poor yields and susceptibility to diseases.

“I practice organic farming which means I avoid spraying my crops with chemicals, unfortunately courgette do not do well nowadays without spraying them with a host of chemicals to protect them from diseases,” she said.

Kimani said Agri Seed Co was working on a leaf curl resistant seed variety which would be in the market within the next two weeks.

“We have a courgette/zucchini which is a hybrid known as Amanda and it will be available to farmers in the next two weeks, hopefully this will protect the farmers from losses,” Kimani noted.

According to Kimani one of the key challenges for the 120 exhibitors at the field day was to meet the farmers’ demands for early yielding crops that were adaptable to many ecological zones.

For maize farmers, majority are looking for maize varieties that are high yielding, adaptable to various climatic conditions and drought resistant.

“More maize farmers in central region want maize varieties that will mature early and adapt easily to the low rainfall patterns that have hit this region,” Kimani explained.

Horticultural produce farmers want vegetable varieties resistant to diseases, early maturing and high yielding.

— Lydia Nyawira

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