Forest owners worried over eucalyptus disease

Forest owners have expressed worry over a disease which has affected hectares of eucalyptus trees countrywide.

Forest owners have expressed worry over a disease which has affected hectares of eucalyptus trees countrywide.

The disease, spread by small insects called eucalyptus lice, has devastated many trees since 2013, according to the Rwanda Natural Resources Authority.

Theophile Nkurizabo, a resident of Bushenge sector in Nyamasheke District, is among the people whose trees have already been affected.

He said the disease,  that is strange in their area, is causing trees to dry up, and he fears his whole forest could dry.

“We fear that these insects could even spread some diseases to human beings as well from eucalyptus trees,” he added.

Daniel Haryohumuco, another resident of Shangi Sector in Nyamasheke District, echoed the same message, saying if nothing is done to reverse the situation the country risks losing eucalyptus forests.

Origin of the disease

Dismas Bakundukize, the director of Forestry Management Unit at the Rwanda Natural Resources Authority, explained that the insects originated from Australia.

 “The insects were spread to some African countries from Australia. In Africa, they  started with South Africa, Zimbabwe, then Zambia, Uganda, and finally Rwanda in 2013,” he explained.

He said that the disease has already spread to all parts of the country and it affects all species of eucalyptus trees,  except maiden and microcorys species.

There is no figure of hectares that have already been affected, he said, but the disease deforms the leaves before they turn yellowish and dry.

Bakundukize said  that there are no consequences of the insects on human beings.

“The insects spread faster during the dry season,” he added.

 Causes

The officials attributed the disease to insufficient water in the soil and poor management of forests.

The insects suck the trees until they get dry.

Remedy

When the disease first appeared, he said, they  conducted research countrywide to gather information about it,  they took some insects and sent them to a national laboratory in England, he said.

The tests identified the insects as Thaumastocoris Peregrines.

He said that scientists confirmed that there is no known insecticide so far for the disease with research still going on to find the right drug.

Scientists added that there is another kind of drug that could be used; however, it is dangerous to other living thongs and may cause air pollution.

While we await a scientic remedy, district forest officers and Rwanda Natural Resources Authority are conducting campaigns to educate farmers how to take care of their forests, the official said.

Rwanda Natural Resources Authority advises farmers to ensure proper management of their forests by building terraces to help conserve water.

They are also urged to report any strange cases observed in their plantations.

 editorial@newtimes.co.rw

 

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