Crops Research Institute assists Asesewa farmers in combating cassava infections

The Crops Research Institute (CRI) of the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has trained 110 farmers in Asesewa in the Upper Manya Krobo District to combat cassava viral infections.

The training dubbed, "Together let’s save our cassava," also featured agriculture extension officers who were taught on the impacts of cassava mosaic virus disease, which has proven to be transmitted by whiteflies and cuttings.

The seriousness of the virus disease and its adverse impact on food security and nutrition moved the CRI to step in and assist local farmers to be able to manage it properly and shore up cassava production.

Addressing the farmers at Asesewa, Dr Allen Oppong, Senior Research Scientist, said the intervention was under the "Central and West Africa Virus Epidemiology" four-year project for root and tuber crops, which started in 2019.

He said the project had since been engaging in the sensitisation of cassava growers, and extension officers on the impact of the cassava viral diseases, particularly the cassava mosaic virus disease and cassava brown streak virus disease.

According to Dr Oppong, who is also the project leader for Ghana, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the United Kingdom (UK) Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office are funding the initiative, which is also supported by CORAF and the European Union.

It seeks to catalyse long-term food security by protecting and increasing the yield of root and tuber crops in West and Central Africa via better knowledge and coordination of viral disease risks.

Both farmers and extension officers were also educated on other cassava diseases caused by fungi, bacteria, and pests such as green mites and mealybugs, and how to recognise them for their effective management.

Dr Oppong explained that those diseases and pests also affected various parts of cassava, reducing its yield and quality.

As a result, he told farmers to often visit the nearest agriculture department for improved cassava sticks and cuttings, or check their cassava sticks were in a healthy state before planting them.

Farmers should also monitor their farms regularly and report any strange symptoms or diseases to agriculture extension officers.

Also, he encouraged farmers who could download “NURU App” on their smartphones as that could help detect cassava plant diseases.

Mr Hilary Alagbo, Director of Agriculture, Upper Manya Krobo District, stated that the district has great potential for cassava production and that the Ministry of Food and Agriculture has implemented some programmes aimed at increasing cassava output.

He noted that the relevance of the Center for Scientific and Industrial Research-Crops Research Institute in the cassava value chain “cannot be overstated.

He further stated that the institution has worked hard over the years to create pest-, disease-, and drought-resistant cassava cultivars such as "Bankye Hemaa, Sika Bankye, and Ampong.

Ms Comfort Lardjeh, who was among the farmers invited from five communities, described the training as educative and that she now saw the imperative need to always report anything unpleasant noticed on her cassava field to Agricultural Extension Agents as this was helpful to get excellent crop yields.

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