In Zambia, the proportion of smallholder households growing and selling citrus fruits has been declining over the past years. For instance, during the period 2012 to 2016 there was a drop in production levels from 4,400 to 3,786 tonnes (FAOSTA, 2017), resulting in a reduction of 614 tonnes over a period of four years. The decline has been attributed to several factors such as pests incidences, production high costs including the negatives effects of climate change.
As a Senior Agricultural Research Officer, I have observed how pests like fruit fly (Bactrocera dorsalis) an Cerospora fruit spot disease (Cerospora angolensis) have limited citrus production in Zambia. These two pests have the potential to cause 30 to 100% yield loss with improper management. Fruit fly and Cercospora fruit spot disease are prevalent in all growing areas and have been a constant threat to citrus production in Zambia. However, a number of control methods are being used worldwide. The array of control measures include the use of single applications of inorganic pesticides, bio-pesticides, organic pesticides, mixtures of pesticides, cultural practices and host plant resistance. In my community and Zambia at large, inorganic pesticides are the most used control measures. This is so because inorganic pesticides are readily available and effective to control pests of citrus except for their negative impact on non-target organisms (Carrolet al., 2009).
Despite the economic threats and production damage caused by fruit fly and Cercospora fruit spot disease, there has been limited scientifically justified and stream lined research done to sustainably control these pests in Zambia. The damage on citrus fruits has led to quarantine restrictions and phytosanitary measures which are imposed by developed countries on exports. This has led to socio-economic losses of income, jobs and nutritional security in the country. Through my work, I have witnessed at farm level, farmers using high concentrations of pesticides to control pest out breaks. I have equally, observed the lack of knowledge among the farmers on integrated pest management (IPM) practices. Therefore, to change the current situation, I intend to conduct a project with the aim to reduce dependence on inorganic pesticides in citrus production. The project will involve introduction of bio-control and organic pesticides in already existing spray programs. Also, a sustainable control measure/s to manage fruit fly and Cercospora fruit spot disease will be established.
The objectives are; (i) to document information and empower farmers on IPM in fruit fly and Cercospora fruit spot disease (ii) sensitize farmers and to transfer knowledge on benefits of using bio-control and organic pesticides (iii) educate farmers on correct use and disposal of obsolute pesticides (iv) to determine the most suitable IPM control strategy in fruit production.
The project will be conducted at Copperbelt Research Station in Kalulushi district, on the Copperbelt Province of Zambia where I am currently working. The proposed time frame for this project will be three years. During this period, the following activities will be done to control pests and improve fruit production; establish field and greenhouse trials, set up on-farm demonstration plots, raise and distribute disease-free seedlings, and conduct trainings on IPM strategies to control these pests. Knowledge transfer will be implemented through distribution of catalogues on pests of citrus fruits, radio and television programs and participatory meetings. Equally, farmers will be educated on pest and disease identification, best control methods, proper use of chemicals to safe guard the environment. Furthermore, through the project, a number of stakeholders will be engaged. These include; the smallholder farmers who are primary beneficiaries of the project, agro-dealers, researchers, extension services, agricultural processing industries and consumers.
The outcomes of this project will lead to sustainable management of fruit fly and Cercospora fruit spot disease in citrus production typical to the Zambian setup including improved knowledge and skills on suitable IPM strategies. Consequently, this project will contribute to upgraded fruit production, improved fruit nutrition value, job creation and increased income generation activities.
My passion is to see pests such as fruit fly and Cercospora fruit spotdisease which challenge citrus fruit production mitigated for increased local production and reduced importation of fruits in Zambia. Furthermore, through this project, I would love to see improved fruit production contribute to reduced malnutrition levels which stands at 40% with 15% of the under five children extremely malnourish in my country.
On a special note, I look forward to learning new technical skills, improve my scientific communication skills and build global networks. I believe this will help me stay up-to-date and collaborate with other scientists under the IUPAC Next Generation Programs. My appeal is that, IUPAC Next Generation Program organizers should continue offering this unique life changing platform to young crop protection future leaders.
Chilipa Lorraine, Zambia