Researchers take samples from Bauchi watermelon farms to tackle diseases, pests

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A team of researchers from the National Horticultural Research Institute (NIHORT), Kano and Gombe centres has visited watermelon farms ravaged by diseases and pests, as well as taken samples of the affected plants for analysis to tackle challenges dislodging farmers from Bara, Kirfi Local Government Area of Bauchi.

Speaking at one of the affected farms, the leader of the team, Dr Idris Bala Gingiyu from Bagauda station in Kano, said the team was in Bara to interact with the affected farmers to get relevant information and collect samples of the affected plants, fruits and the types of insecticide used, as well as the mode and method of their application.

Idris said, “What we read in Daily Trust newspaper motivated our institute to intervene, with a view to rescuing farmers concerning the farming of watermelon in Bara. If we don’t say that Bara watermelon farmers are the pioneers of the fruits, they are the major producers.

“We want to commend Daily Trust for their investigative report, which has brought out the challenges to public domain, a situation that has displaced many farmers out of business because of diseases and pests, lowering their economic potentials. God willing, with the efforts of the NIHORT, we are going to find solutions to their problems.

“Watermelon is one of the mandates of the NIHORT; that is the essence we travelled a long distance and combined Kano and Gombe stations to come and see the problems. We visited the affected farms, picked samples of the affected plants for analysis and interviewed the farmers.”

He further disclosed that preliminary findings indicated that one of the challenges of the Bara watermelon is that farmers purchased their seeds from the roadside and even the chemicals, adding, “They are only spraying the pests and not conserving the diseases. There is the need for them to spray for diseases. There is the need for the farmers, whenever they want to purchase the chemicals and the seeds, to buy from reputable research institutes or agro-allied companies, where they can get genuine and not adulterated seeds and insecticides.

Earlier in his remarks at the palace of the district head of Bara, the deputy head of the Gombe NIHORT station, Nasiru Usman, explained that the visit was prompted by Daily Trust’s story, adding, “Some weeks ago, the National Director of NIHORT directed a quick response on the report published in Daily Trust about the challenges of watermelon in Bara, Bauchi State, which has displaced many farmers from their farms, forcing them to migrate to neighbouring states and the Republic of Cameroon.

“A team was directed to visit the affected farms, interact with the farmers and discuss issues around the challenges and take samples for analysis to know the real problems and address the challenges because Bara is the hub of watermelon farming. We should not allow diseases and pests to continue to push farmers out of business.”

Responding on behalf of the farmers, the district head of Bara, Alhaji Muhammad Abdullahi, who welcomed the researchers, said, “Your visit to Bara is a great gesture. I believe your coming would not only benefit the farmers in Bara but be the solution to both farmers and consumers, as well as the country in general.

“We are really disturbed with the poor yield of watermelon in the last three years because it is the main source of livelihood. Not only that, Bara is known for the mass production of the watermelon, but we witnessed a great setback. We are praying to God to bring an end to the challenges.

“I am extremely happy with your visit, especially having come from a far distance to proffer solutions, especially on issues of farming. It is really a great and welcome development. We are happy for your coming and we pray God Almighty to reward you.

“The level of seriousness and the composition of the NIHORT delegation speak volumes that, insha Allahu, there would be a lasting solution to the problem of watermelon farming here. We have been praying for intervention and I believe that Allah has answered our prayers”

“We farm watermelon during dry and rainy seasons, but unfortunately, in the last two years, rainy season farming also recorded poor yield because the combination of dry and rainy seasons produce what we get. The current situation is that both the rainy and dry seasons record poor yield, and this has impoverished many farmers in Bara and neighbouring communities.”

Some of the affected farmers told the NIHORT team that they witnessed various challenges, including early diseases that resulted to the death of watermelon plants, as well as the presence of different types of pests at different stages of farming, which were difficult to control.

Others lamented that the challenges resulted to the cultivation of few plants and poor yield, as well as many incidents of burnt fruits.

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