Mozambique: 40,000 Hectares Lost Because of Pesticide Abuse

Maputo — In the 2018-19 agricultural campaign, Mozambique lost over 40,000 hectares of cultivated land because of the abuse of pesticides in the attempt to control insect pests.

Interviewed by the Portuguese news agency Lusa, Aderito Lazaro of the Plant Health Department in the Ministry of Agriculture, said "the use of chemicals should be a last resort. However, at the first sign of a pest, the producers grab their pesticides, and one of the mistakes is that they use the same substance repeatedly. They should rotate".

Lazaro cited the case of Boane district, 30 kilometres west of Maputo, where farmers had doubled the amount of pesticides used per week - without getting rid of the pests damaging the maize crop. Insects are showing signs of resistance to pesticides throughout the country.

The Agriculture Ministry, in partnership with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), has publicised methods to handle pests through an integrated range of measures, including not only conventional insecticides, but also biological pesticides and improved seed.

Meanwhile, a new pest is threatening banana growers in Chokwe district, in the Limpopo valley. This is the banana bunchy top virus (BBTV). To prevent the spread of the virus the authorities are destroying infected banana trees in several plantations.

"This virus is lethal, and regardless of whether we cut the trees down or not, they will die", said Celso Rufasse, coordinator of the BBTV project, cited by the independent daily "O Pais".

"If we don't cut the trees down, there will be a greater dispersal of the disease", he continued. "The goal is to avoid the spread of the virus, so that we can eradicate the disease".

Destroying the infected plants began a month ago, and so far almost 30,000 banana trees have been cut down in Chokwe. There is ban in place on the movement of bananas from Chokwe to elsewhere in the country.

The elimination of infected plants is budgeted at 20 million meticais (about 323,000 US dollars), and this task is receiving assistance from South Africa and the United States.

The virus is transmitted plant to plant by banana aphids. The virus damages the cells of the host plant, and usually prevents it from producing fruit. Any fruit that is produced is likely to be deformed.

Since there are no varieties of banana that are resistant to the virus, the only ways to eliminate the disease are to control the aphids, or to remove and destroy infected plants before the virus spreads.

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