By Our Reporters

In Kalangala

The Kalangala Oil Palm Growers Trust officials led by the  General manager , Mr. Baliironda David Mukasa Salongo have said that the reported outbreak of pests and diseases has been brought under control and it  has no significant threat to the square miles of oil palm gardens on the island .

“Yes we have had some reported cases where  our famers were facing challenges with pests and disease- affecting their crop but this is on a very limited scale and under control . We have carried out extensive training to control the spread of pests and disease  on oil palm gardens .    Our qualified and able -extension staff  are on the ground to help farmers deal with the problem of  pests and disease, “ Mr. Balironda told a team of journalists who visited the oil palm farmers in Kalangala this week to get updates about the successful oil palm project- where farmers are earning millions of shillings from their produce.

Oil palm farming has had  significant  economic  transformation of  the hitherto poverty stricken Kalangala district .

Smallholder oil palm farmers in Kalangala have been faced with a challenge of pests and diseases affecting their gardens with one case of Ganoderma trunk rot (0.86%), two cases of palm weevil (1.72%) and one case of boron deficiency (0.86%) detected in the Kayunga Block.

Balironda , however , explained that after carrying out extensive research – it was established that there are no new oil palm diseases or pests in Kalangala and he instead attributed the spread of the already known pests and disease -to poor farm management by  a small number of out growers-who are being trained to effectively deal with the problem  .

 Balironda ‘s statement corroborates research findings by  National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO)  which revealed that  disease and pest occurrences are not yet at levels which can cause economic loss to oil palm production in Kalangala.

“The findings indicate that the pests and diseases mostly affect smallholder farmers whose management is inadequate compared to the nucleus estate. Majority of the oil palm fields with miserable palms and low yields were poorly managed with uncontrolled woody shrubs growing within the plantation. Some were planted on rocky and sandy soils with less soil and yet water conservation measures not observed,” NARO’s technical report reads in part .

Officials said that the National Oil Palm Project (NOPP) has already put interventions in place to overcome these challenges.

The oil palm disease resistant varieties globally accepted as the most effective measure against Fusarium wilt are currently evaluated at Namulonge for resistance against the strain of Fusarium wilt identified in Kalangala. The results will guide the use of Fusarium resistant varieties in the expanding oil palm industry in Uganda.

Fusarium wilt has also been gradually managed by the nucleus estate (OPUL) through quarantining of the infected palms, systematic use of fertilizers, removal of dead palms and correct application of agronomic practices such pruning, good soil and water conservation practices.

Balironda assured farmers in the new regions where oil palm farming is being introduced like , Buvuma island, Mayuge and  Masaka among others that oil palm growing was a profitable venture and the threats of pests and diseases are “ well manageable.”

There are 2,063 oil palm out-growers under the Kalangala Oil Palm Growers Trust 1,350 of whom are harvesting and earning steady income from their gardens .

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