The National Horticultural Research Institute (NIHORT), Ibadan, Oyo State, said it has detected a new virus disease attacking okra plants across Nigeria. This piece of information was made known by NIHORT management, saying the institute had received reports from farmers across the country on the new and uncommon virus-like symptoms on okra farms, leading to rapid disease outbreaks resulting in more than 70 per cent loss of the plants in certain situations.
NIHORT stated that observation by a multidisciplinary team, from the institute on ad hoc visits to okra farms, revealed an unusual symptom in okra consisting of leaf curl associated with enations or outgrowths that are distinct from the usual leaf curl and/or vein yellowing symptoms known with virus-infected okra plants and that, a high population of aphids and leafhoppers were observed on the leaves of okra plants in farms that were inspected. “This epidemic has assumed a nationwide occurrence, having been reported in Oyo, Ogun, Osun, Ondo, Ekiti, Lagos (Southwest) and Niger states. Farmers should look out for the symptoms of the new virus disease: high population of aphids and leafhoppers (vectors); and initial expression of small pin-head enations or outgrowths on the under surface of okra leaves.
“This is followed by a warty and rough texture of leaves, with leaves curling upwards while affected plants show a twisting of the necrotic leaves becoming thick and leathery”, the management said. The institute said that the curling and enations were more prevalent on leaves that developed, soon after infection than in later leaves, and okra plants were severely stunted with small fruits mostly deformed, which made it unfit for marketing. NIHORT informed that it was on the alert to curtail the outbreak in view of the devastating and negative economic impact on okra farmers nationwide, noting that the institute wanted numerous stakeholders across Nigeria to be aware of this potential threat to okra production.
NIHORT has described, as expedient, the need to keep farmers abreast of this development and associated symptoms expression of this new virus attack, especially for farmers that are yet to experience the occurrence of these insect pests. Meanwhile, the palliative or interim control measure that could be adopted to contain these evasive vectors involves spraying the okra farm(s) with synthetic insecticide at 20ml/15lt of water weekly under severe infestations, the institute stated further while research is being intensified on developing sustainable Integrated Pest Management (IPM) package to arrest the new virus epidemic attacking the crop.