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February 23, 2019

Avocado disease hits Murang’a, Kiambu

EXPERT: Olivado EPZ company field officer Michael Gitahi with a nursery operator at Karlo, Kandara
EXPERT: Olivado EPZ company field officer Michael Gitahi with a nursery operator at Karlo, Kandara

Avocado farmers have been cautioned against a disease that has been detected in Murang’a and neighbouring counties.

Olivado EPZ Ltd field officer Michael Gitahi said the disease known as Phytophthora has been identified in Kandara and Gikindu areas in Murang’a county and Thika region in Kiambu county.

Gitahi said the disease could wipe out avocado and macadamia trees in the next two years if it is not urgently controlled.

He said after realising that the disease had invaded tree nurseries, the company decided to grow its own seedlings through the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation to ensure the pathogen is not transferred to the seedlings.

"We want to ensure we do not participate in spreading the disease further. We also ensure all the processes involved in the production of our seedlings are within the required standards," said Gitahi.

The company, he said, has now embarked on training farmers and nursery operators on the disease and how to eradicate it.

Speaking at the Karlo centre at Kandara during a training programme last week, Gitahi added that farmers have expressed interest in learning ways of controlling the disease to save their crops.

"We have agreed with the nursery operators that we will go around their nurseries conducting tests on their avocado and macadamia seedlings to establish the ones that have been affected and advise them on the measures to take,” he added.

Gitahi said the company only deals with contracted farmers and that it conducts annual internal audits to ensure farmers adhere to the required standards and that the fruits are healthy.

He noted that 70 percent of its 1,300 farmers are from Murang’a county. "We are working with the county government to make sure all extension officers are enlightened on the disease to help curb its spread."

Gitahi said the major symptoms of the disease are wilting of leaves and drying up of branches, which leads to the eventual death of the tree.

He urged farmers to stop buying seedlings from roadside tree nurseries, whose source of scions is untraceable.

"We need to work together with farmers to eradicate the disease and one way is ensuring farmers get their seedlings from licensed nurseries operators,” said Gitahi.

He urged farmers to ensure they attend training forums organised by the county government and individual companies to gain more knowledge on the disease.

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