The Federal Government has blamed the exceedingly high cost of tomatoes in Nigeria on the pest, Tuta absoluta, popularly known as ‘Tomato Ebola’. The pest, according to the government, has caused massive destruction of tomato in farmlands in six states; Jigawa, Kano, Katsina, Kaduna, Plateau and Lagos.
According to the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr. Audu Ogbeh, the Federal Government had started consulting with states and experts in other to fashion out measures to tackle the pest.
He said, “The pest can also attack even pepper and Irish potato. So we are confronting something quite serious. But the good thing is that we are tackling it right now as experts will commence work immediately. We are bringing the commissioners and governors of states to jointly attack this pest, which, if not dealt with, will create serious problems for food security in our country.”
What is Tuta Absoluta (Tomato Ebola)
Tuta absoluta is a species of moth in family Gelechiidae known by the common names tomato leafminer and in Nigeria, Tomato Ebola. It is well known as a serious pest of tomato crops in Europe and South America.
*The larva feeds voraciously upon tomato plants, producing large galleries in leaves, burrowing in stalks, and consuming apical buds and green and ripe fruits. It is capable of causing a yield loss of 100%.
*Tomato is the main host plant, but T. absoluta also attacks other crop plants of the nightshade family, including potato, eggplant, pepino and tobacco.
*In favorable weather conditions eight to ten generations can occur in a single year.
This moth was first known as a tomato pest in many South American countries. In 2006, it was identified in Spain. The following year it was detected in France, Italy, Greece, Malta, Morocco, Algeria and Libya in 2009, Turkey and in Nigeria 2016. The advance of T. absoluta has continued to the east to reach Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Iran. Further advances southward reached Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman and the rest of the Gulf states. In Africa, T. absoluta moved from Egypt to reach Sudan, South Sudan and Ethiopia from the east and to reach the Senegal from the west.
Some populations of T. absoluta have developed resistance to organophosphate and pyrethroid pesticides. Newer compounds such as spinosad, imidacloprid, and Bacillus thuringiensis have demonstrated some efficacy in controlling European outbreaks of this moth.
Experiments have revealed some promising agents of biological pest control for this moth, including Nabis pseudoferus, a species of damsel bug.
The sex pheromone for T. absoluta has been identified by researchers at Cornell University and has been found to be highly attractive to male moths. Pheromone lures are used extensively throughout Europe, South America, North Africa and the Middle East for the monitoring and mass-trapping of T. absoluta.
The combined use of pheromones as well as specific light frequency proved to be effective in suppressing the T. absoluta population and keeping it within the economic threshold as it disclosed by Russell IPM in a United Kingdom patent.
Daniel Fayemi for encomium.ng