Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB) researchers have urged maize farmers across the country to make use of combined approaches of Integrated Pest Management (IPM), new blended fertilisers, high yielding and pest resistant seeds and irrigation so as to increase maize yields.
They were speaking during farmer field tour in Gatare agricultural wetland in Ruhango District, Thursday where using new micronutrients in blended fertilisers have raised hopes for better maize harvest from an average of 4 tonnes per hectare to between six and seven tonnes.
The research is being conducted on maize, Irish potatoes and rice.
Fall armyworms reduced national maize yield by 5 per cent (10,000 tonnes) during season B of last year in when the country had projected to harvest 208,000 tonnes of maize grain.
The head of research at RAB, Patrick Karangwa, said there was need of embracing IPM since pest attacks trigger huge losses.
“IPM includes crop rotation because pests can attack one type of crop but cannot attack the other. IPM also needs developing varieties that resist diseases and pests as well as biological control of pests. These should be considered besides direct control of pests through using environmental friendly pesticides,” he said.
The researcher also revealed that, besides carrying out research on new blended fertilisers, research was also being carried out on new varieties of maize that can resist pests.
“We are happy that farmers with support from various stakeholders have worked to drastically reduce the impact of armyworms in this marshland and elsewhere in the country. However, we need sustainable solutions because spraying pesticides is not enough,” said Karangwa.
Farmers speak out
Farmers, grouped in ‘Jyambere Muhinzi’ association in Gatare marshland, said they need skills in pests control new blended fertilisers as well as access to motorised irrigation pumps.
“We realised that the new fertilisers make our maize leaves greenish, and grow quickly with big stems compared to others where we used only DAP. We need them for the next season but we also need usual intervention in controlling armyworms because we might use better inputs but crops can also be destroyed by pests,” said Jean Claude Munyemana, a farmer in Ruhango District.
Consolee Mukakalisa, the leader of farmers groups, said they also needed motorised irrigation pumps since there’s were manual.
“We have two manual pumping machines bought from Ubudehe funds but it requires physical efforts and it is therefore too difficult for the weak to use. And they do not pump water far enough and therefore parts of the fields do not get irrigated. We also seek to buy drying facilities,” she said.
Annonciata Kambayire, the Vice Mayor in charge of social affairs in Ruhango, said more idle land would be offered to the farmers as they look to get modern irrigation equipment.
“We have 50 per cent subsidised irrigation equipment in the district. We will also link you to saving and credit cooperatives (SACCO) to lend you the rest of the amount and then buy modern irrigation equipment, which can even be used in hillside irrigation,” she said.