SEED manufacturer SeedCo has lost about 25 percent of its soya bean seed stock for the 2017/2018 season to a resurgent stem rot disease called sclerotinia, a senior executive has said. The company’s global head for research, John Derera, however, told The Financial Gazette that the loss would not affect seed supplies for the season.
“We have discarded a huge amount of seed because of the disease. About 25 percent of the seed has been affected. We are looking at supplying not less than 7 000 metric tonnes which augurs well with the figures we distribute each year,” Derera said, adding that the disease was not new to Zimbabwe, but its occurrences were increasing due to poor farming practices. “It can be transmitted with the seed and it can affect the next generation of the crop. It’s a quarantine disease and (if) it affects the seed we can’t sell it. So once it’s detected we discard the seed.
“That is why we are saying we need to observe crop rotation protocols. If this season you have soya beans, next season you put maize so that you break the disease cycle and you buy new certified seed. We must observe best practices of sanitation so that we contain these diseases. You can spray it, but the best thing is be smart,” Derera said.
Noting that chemical control was not effective and only served to push up the farmers’ costs he said: “Chemical control is not easy. It’s not working effectively and it increases the cost structure on a crop that is already very expensive to produce.” Most soya bean producers rely on seed retention which has become the major factor in the increasing prevalence of the disease.
“We blame that on a lot of seed retention on the farms. If the farmer has it (the disease) on the farm and he takes the seed to use again on his farm he is spreading the disease,” he said. Current demand for soya bean in Zimbabwe far outstrips supply, but government expects to stop the importation of soya beans by May 2018 on the back of the Command Soya Bean Scheme introduced in the 2017/18 farming season to boost production. The country was targeting to raise $150 million for the Command Soya Bean Scheme. Zimbabwean farmers last year produced 30 000 tonnes of soya beans, according to Oil Expressers’ Association of Zimbabwe. By Farai Mabeza