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Cameroun, food crisis in Lebialem for plant disease

By on July 3, 2010

from George Atabong*
Lebialem Division in the South West Region of Cameroon will soon experience serious food crisis this year. Of recent, the farmers of this baby division and mostly the women the folk have been experiencing something unusual or unknown to them for many decades. This is sending shock waves in many households.

A cocoyam species popularly known as colocasia, or taro or better still Ibo coco has come under serious attacked by a blight which can now be conveniently described as an epidemic in the Division owing to its rate of spread. For the past years taro has been grown with no serious disease problems but what is happening now is very unusual.

From initial field investigation lesions appear on the leaves. Initially small, round and dark lesions appear on the leaves. A drop of liquid exudes from the spots, that turns orange, purple and brown. These spots rapidly enlarge to more than 5cm in diameter and become purplish to brownish in colour with a chlorotic circle around the spots. As the disease progresses, the spots coalesce and have characteristic rings of yellow and brownish colour. white powdery mass of spores are produced on the affected parts both on and under the leaf. Eventually, the whole leaf becomes affected, dries up and dies. Roots show no serious damage (see stages on disease development in pictures below). This disease appears to be host specific as it does not attack Xanthosama spp.

For the moment and considering the absence of a Plant Disease Diagnostic Laboratory in Lebialem and Basic diagnostic tools, these symptoms can be described as that of phytopthora leaf blight, taro blight (Phytopthora colocasiae). The spread is favoured by humid, cloudy conditions and poor soil fertility which is characteristic of Lebialem Division. Spores produced on the leaf spots are readily spread by rain, wind and humans.

Damage already caused and the consequences

This disease is known to cause considerable damage affected fields. Presently, the disease is more prevalent and devastating in the lower zones of Menji, Essoh Attah, Ndasouah, Foreke, Bellah Ngeh, Atongeh etc. It has attacked close to 150 Ha of colocasia fields. This might lead to 90% of crop loss. The multiplier effect is obvious: reduction in food, reduction in household income, poverty, disease etc.

Control measures

For the moment the Divisional Phytosanitary Brigade is handicapped as it lacks the required pesticides and spray equipment for rapid intervention. Nevertheless, as a preventive measure, farmers whose farms have not been attacked are advised to

1. Remove and destroying all infected leaves before new ones emerge

2. In severe cases uproot and destroy entire plant;

3. Avoid walking through an infested field when it is wet as this encourages spread of spores

4. Burn all crop remains after harvest

5. Use of systemic copper fungicides – Callomil, Ridomil, OK mill etc

The best method is the propagation and use of resistant cultivar. This is so because the fungi can survive in corm or soil during dry periods. Also, movements of the fungus is known to occur when infected corms are transported to new areas or fields.

* Lebialem Community Radio (LCR)

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