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Food Safety: NIHORT alerts farmers to outbreak of new Okra virus disease

Photo: JR Produce

*Nigeria’s National Horticultural Research Institute urges farmers keep on the watch for symptoms of the new Okra virus disease, stating the epidemic has assumed a nationwide occurrence with reports from the South-West and Niger State

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

The National Horticultural Research Institute (NIHORT) has revealed it detected a new virus disease attacking Okra plants across Nigeria.

NIHORT Management disclosed this development in a statement issued Friday, July 21, 2023, in Ibadan, Oyo State capital.

The Institute also said reports were being received from farmers across the West African country concerning the new and uncommon virus-like symptoms on okra farms leading to rapid disease outbreaks, resulting in over 70 percent loss of okra plants in certain situations.

The Institute noted that observation by a multidisciplinary team from NIHORT on ad hoc visits to okra farms revealed an unusual symptom in okra consisting of leaf curl associated with enations or outgrowths.

According to NIHORT, they are distinct from the usual leaf curl and/or vein yellowing symptoms known with virus-infected okra plants.

It further stated that a high population of aphids and leafhoppers were observed on the leaves of okra plants in farms that were inspected.

The Management explained: “This epidemic has assumed a nationwide occurrence, having been reported in Oyo, Ogun, Osun, Ondo, Ekiti, Lagos (South-West) and Niger states.

“Farmers should look out for the symptoms of the new virus disease: high population of aphids and leafhoppers (vectors); and initial expression of small pin-head enations or outgrowths on the under surface of okra leaves.

“This is followed by a warty and rough texture of leaves, with leaves curling upwards while affected plants show a twisting of the necrotic leaves becoming thick and leathery.”

According to the Institute, the curling and enations are more prevalent on leaves that developed, soon after infection than in later leaves, and okra plants were severely stunted with small fruits mostly deformed, which made it unfit for marketing.

What you should know about Okra fruit or vegetable

While we might know this plant as a vegetable for culinary purposes, botanically it’s a fruit, as it’s the seed-bearing part of the plant, according to All Recipes.
Okra can be divisive for its slimy texture.

It contains mucilage, which is a naturally occurring substance that acts as a thickener for stews or gumbos, of course.

NIHORT on the alert, says Management

The NIHORT Management said that the Institute was on the alert to curtail the outbreak in view of the devastating and negative economic impact on okra farmers nationwide.

The Management said that the Institute wanted the numerous stakeholders across the country to be aware of this potential threat to okra production.

The Institute as well said: “NIHORT feels it is expedient to keep farmers abreast of this development and the associated symptoms expression of this new virus attack, especially the farmers that are yet to experience the occurrence of these insect pests.

“Meanwhile, the palliative or interim control measure that could be adopted to contain these evasive vectors is spraying the okra farm(s) with synthetic insecticide at 20ml/15lt of water weekly under severe infestations.”

Research is being intensified on developing a sustainable Integrated Pest Management (IPM) package to curb the new virus epidemic attacking okra production in Nigeria, said NIHORT.

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