The Ministry of Agriculture, Regulatory Services Department (RSD) is promoting new techniques of Tuta absoluta control to minimize the use of pesticides.
According to Mr. Amanuel Ghirmay, from Plant and plant products safety and quality inspection unit of RSD, Tuta absoluta , the devastating tomato pest has infested tomato farms almost throughout the country. Many farmers have been relying on heavy chemical applications to control the pest. Some of them, even, continued to apply pesticides until the day of harvest. This resulted in contaminated tomatoes sold in markets of Asmara and other towns. Following this, RSD damped 256 quintals of contaminated tomatoes in the previous year.
Under this circumstance, Mr. Mensur Mualem, a hard-working and innovative farmer from Dge, a sub-zone in Gash Barka region, understood the drawbacks of relying on chemical application and started a new technique to control Tuta absoluta.
Mr. Mensur Mualem grows tomatoes, bananas and other vegetables on more than 10 hectares of land.
Mr. Amanuel commended the unique awareness that Mr. Mensur possesses and testifies, “He knew something other farmers didn’t. He understood the contamination on consumers as well as the damage caused by chemicals on the beneficial soil organisms, wells, rivers, and wildlife around the farm. He said that he found many dead birds that ate some of the tomatoes sprayed by chemicals.”
To avoid this disaster, Mr. Mualem had to take unique measures. Knowing that Tuta absoluta insects are attracted to light, he bought 400 light traps. The light trap is a very simple combination of kerosene powered lamp placed inside a plastic dish half filled with water. The insects are attracted to the lights and fly around without attacking the plants. While doing so, many of them get into the water and die there.
Since the pest is active at night, Mr. Mensur lights the lanterns early in the evening and put them around his tomato field (See picture). In the morning, he finds hundreds of adult Tuta absoluta insects drowned in the water.
He says that in all his efforts, extension staff from the Ministry of Agriculture and Regional inspectorates provided him adequate technical help and encouragements. Mr. Mensur says ever since he introduced these traps, his farm is healthier than the surrounding farms. Moreover the new technique helped him reduce the amount of pesticide he applies.