Okra growers across Nigeria are facing a daunting challenge as a new virus outbreak wreaks havoc on their farms, causing widespread fear and concern.

The virus has rapidly spread across multiple states, including Oyo, Ogun, Osun, Ondo, Ekiti, Lagos (Southwest), and Niger, resulting in the destruction of over 70% of okra plantations.

Okra, a highly valued vegetable in Nigeria due to its economic and nutritional benefits, is grown extensively on both large and small scales, providing a vital source of income for farmers and essential nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and protein.

The National Horticultural Research Institute (NIHORT) in Ibadan, Oyo State, alerted the public to the outbreak, having detected the new virus through its scientific investigations. Reports from farmers across the country have indicated virus-like symptoms on okra farms, indicating a widespread disease outbreak.

The institute described the unusual symptoms observed in affected plants, such as leaf curl associated with enations or outgrowths, which differed from the typical symptoms of virus-infected okra. Additionally, a high population of aphids and leafhoppers was noted on the leaves of the affected plants. The severity of the outbreak has led to severely stunted okra plants with small deformed fruits, rendering them unfit for market.

In response to the devastating economic impact on okra farmers, NIHORT is actively working to contain the outbreak and raise awareness among stakeholders about the potential threat to okra production. Farmers are advised to be vigilant and on the lookout for the symptoms of the new virus disease, especially the presence of aphids and leafhoppers, as well as pin-head enations on the undersurface of okra leaves.

NIHORT recommends a palliative/interim control measure involving spraying affected okra farms with synthetic insecticides at specified intervals under severe infestations. Concurrently, research efforts are being intensified to develop a sustainable Integrated Pest Management (IPM) package to combat the virus epidemic and protect okra production.

For further information or assistance, farmers are encouraged to consult NIHORT’s extension department in Ibadan, its outstations, or visit the institute’s websites. The collective effort to curtail the outbreak is crucial to safeguarding Nigeria’s vital okra farming industry.

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