Country’s largest cassava producing province hit by plant disease

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A newly planted cassava field in Tây Ninh Province infected by the cassava mosaic disease. – VNA/VNS Photo Thanh Tân

TÂY NINH – Cassava farmers in the south-eastern province of Tây Ninh are facing a shortage of disease-free seedlings while local authorities are struggling to increase the supply.

The country’s largest cassava producing province has more than 50,000ha under the crop, or 10 per cent of the country’s total.

However, more than 90 per cent is infected by the cassava mosaic disease (CMD) for the last three years, causing a decline in yield and quality.

Trần Văn Thành has a 3ha field in Tân Châu District’s Thạnh Đông Commune where he has grown the crop for more than 20 years.

Previously farmers in his area grew a local cassava variety and got an average yield of more than 50 tonnes per hectare, he said.

But after CMD struck, the yield has declined to 25 – 28 tonnes and the starch content in the cassava has also declined, he said.

For the last crop he switched to the KM 05 cassava variety and got a yield of 35 – 40 tonnes per hectare as infection was slight, he said.

Farmers are forced to buy seedlings from other provinces and local agencies are taking various measures to increase supply.

Nguyễn Văn Sỹ in Tân Châu District’s Tân Phú Commune has dozens of hectares of land under cassava and now buys seedlings from outside the province.

If he uses seedlings from the last crop, they would be severely infected and his harvest could be lost, he said.

But despite the outbreak, most farmers still grow the root because it offers higher incomes than other crops like sugarcane and corn.

The province has 65 companies that make starch and other products from cassava, and the supply cannot meet their demand.

There are some 80 unlicensed establishments that sell seedlings without clear origins, according to its Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Nguyễn Đình Xuân, director of the department, said most farmers buy from the unlicensed establishments or from traders, admitting it is difficult to regulate it.

The department is helping the province’s Agriculture Extension Centre and Đăng Quang Co-operative produce healthy cassava seedlings by providing them with specimens that have been researched, trialled and licensed for commercial cultivation, he said.

The centre has tied up with various research institutions to create new cassava varieties that are suitable for the province’s conditions, can resist CMD and have high yields and starch content.

Last year the Agriculture Extension Centre and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development’s Agricultural Genetics Institute found that two varieties, HN3 and HN5, were resistant to the disease, but production of their seedlings remains slow.

Hà Thanh Tùng, director of the centre, said the two varieties only meet only 1 per cent of demand.

The centre is working with other agencies to produce the seedlings in poly greenhouses besides seeking new cassava varieties at home and abroad that are resistant to CMD.

Xuân said though the province has made great efforts to control CMD, it has spread rapidly.

CMD first appeared in Tây Ninh and has now spread almost all over the country. – VNS

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