Fight crop diseases for food security

Saturday November 24 2018



Michael J. Ssali

Michael J. Ssali 

By Michael J. Ssali

In order to achieve and sustain high agricultural production, plant breeders and researchers make tests and carry out experiments to find solutions to farmers’ problems.
The issues are often about crop diseases, poor quality seeds, long droughts, depleted soils, among many others.

In their research stations the scientists develop and test agricultural technologies that are intended not only to help farmers overcome their challenges but also improve farm yields. Most agricultural research stations get government funding and they are expected to provide guidance and recommendations on modern agricultural production to the government in its effort to support farmers to improve production.

Due to pests and diseases, however, our country’s food production is not as robust as it ought to be, yet our rapid population growth rate makes it imperative to dramatically increase food production.
For example, thanks to a viral disease, Cassava Brown Streak Disease, our annual cassava production is 6.7 million tonnes compared to possible 30 million tonnes, according to the Uganda Biotechnology Information Centre (UBIC).

On average, a Ugandan farmer gets only 2.7 tonnes of maize per hectare compared to a possible nine tonnes.
Up to 30 per cent yield loss of maize is blamed on stem borers. Drought causes an estimated annual maize loss of about US$19.4 million.
Our Irish potato and sweet potato production is impeded by diseases. Cotton production is dwindling due to pests. One effective way to deal with these challenges would be to adopt modern biotechnology innovations developed in our own agricultural research stations but our policy makers are still hesitant to do so due to lack of correct information about the benefits of biotechnology.

Fertiliser use, irrigation, mechanisation, and better agronomic practices will continue to play a big role in transforming agriculture, but farmers should be helped to grow pest resistant crops, herbicide resistant crops, and drought tolerant crops developed through modern biotechnology.
Currently farmers are spending a lot of money on pesticides which reduces their profits.
Drought tolerant maize would sustain production during periods of rain scarcity and cut irrigation costs.
Yield losses would reduce and farmers could get bigger profits.

— ssalimichaelj@gmail.com

Advertisement

Advertisement