Tuta absoluta new and serious threat to food production in Tanzania

Tuta absoluta has been reported for the first time in Tanzania. The pest was identified in a major tomato cultivation area, with serious consequences to the agricultural economy in Tanzania. The discovery represents a major blow to the efforts of government and international development agencies working hard to develop a sustainable agricultural economy for small farmers in East Africa.

The tomato miner Tuta absoluta has been reported in Tanzania for the first time. It was first identified on 5th August 2014 in Ngabobo village, Ngarenanyuki, King'ori in the Arumeru district - part of a key tomato production area in Tanzania.

A report by Maneno Y. Chidege, a research scientist at the Tropical Pesticides Research Institute (TPRI) in Arusha documents the extensive damage caused to tomato fields in the area.

Tuta absoluta was also reported in Kenya earlier this year and Ethiopia and Eritrea in 2013, with unconfirmed reports of the expansion of the pest into Somalia as well.

This rapid development represents a major blow to the efforts of governments and international development agencies working hard to develop a sustainable agricultural economy for small farmers in East Africa.

Tuta absoluta has been a serious threat to tomato production, damaging both leaf as well as fruit and if left unchecked it can devastate up to 100% of the crop. Up until recently, damage to potato crops was limited mainly to the leaf part of the plant. However, during the spread of Tuta absoluta into Sudan, the pest seems to have extended its reach to the potato tuber as well.

Due to their nutritional value and export potential, currently there are serious efforts, sponsored by many international agencies, to enhance the production of tomatoes and potatoes in East Africa for the purpose of providing a sustainable staple food source in the region as well as improving farmers' earnings. This new pest presents a serious threat to such efforts and needs to be kept in check as early as possible.

During the past three years and while expanding eastward from Spain along the North African coast, Tuta absoluta have caused havoc in agricultural production, devastating crops in all countries on the way and elevating prices beyond the capability of average consumers.

International aid and development agencies are strongly urged to start early monitoring and to provide education material to the farmers to identify the risk and plan to act against the pest and limit its damage. Pheromone traps are a simple and effective tool to alert farmers to imminent risk.

Further details from Maneno Y. Chidege cmaneno@tpri.or.tz

For enquiries for monitoring equipment as well as any educational resources regarding Tuta absoluta, please contact Dr Shakir Al-Zaidi directly.

Tuta absoluta is a serious invasive pest. After devastating tomato production in South America, it was introduced accidentally to Spain in 2006. Since then it has spread rapidly to main tomato production in Spain and the rest of the Mediterranean region and beyond.

The problems associated with this pest are the rapid population multiplication (up to 12 generations in one year) as well as its ability to develop resistance toward synthetic insecticides within few generations. Further details about the pest can be obtained from either www.russellipm-agriculture.com or www.tutaabsoluta.com

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