Avocado farmers in Kenya have been warned about a disease detected in Murang’a, in central Kenya, as well as in neighbouring counties, that can cause wilting on leaves, the drying-up of branches and the eventual death of the tree.
According to Michael Gitahi, field officer at avocado processing company Olivado EPZ, the disease has been spotted in Kandara and Gikindu in Murang’a county, and in the Thika region in Kiambu county, according to a report in The Star.
Gitahi warned that the disease, known as phytophthora, could decimate avocado and macadamia trees in the coming two years if it is not urgently controlled.
Since the disease has reportedly invaded tree nurseries, Olivado has decided to grow its own seedlings through the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation.
"We want to ensure we do not participate in spreading the disease further,” he explained. “We also ensure all the processes involved in the production of our seedlings are within the required standards.”
He urged growers to avoid buying seedlings from roadside tree nurseries due to a lack of traceability, and instead purchase them from licensed operators.
The company, he said, has now embarked on training farmers and nursery operators on the disease and how to eradicate it.
However, Richard Collins, chief executive operations at Thika-based exporter Kakuzi, played down the seriousness of the disease, describing the reporting as “sensationalist”.
“It is a common disease affecting avocados worldwide,” he stated. “As Kenya has had an exceptionally wet year, particularly in areas that produce avocados, this root disease might be enhanced. But it is nothing alarming. It can be controlled by decent agricultural practices.”