In Côte d’Ivoire, a disastrous year for cotton, ravaged by a new species of pest

In Côte d’Ivoire, a disastrous year for cotton, ravaged by a new species of pest

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Yakou Soro, a cotton producer and owner of 5 hectares in Dihi, in the north of Côte d'Ivoire, bore the brunt of the pest attack.  He says that he has never seen such a thing.

Lezeni Soro is 56 years old, forty of whom she spent in the cotton fields. A raw material that allowed this producer to become a very respected figure and chief of the village of Dihi, a few kilometers from Korhogo, in the north of Côte d’Ivoire. Thanks to its 17 hectares, the plantation owner is proud to say that he has managed to educate his 28 children aged between 8 and 19. But this year “It will become more difficult to meet the needs of the family”, He gets angry: “I’ve never seen anything like this. » His crop can fall from 40 to 5 tons of cotton.

he’s not the only one to face it “Disastrous Year”, Bakri Souro Coulibaly, technical advisor to the Compagnie Ivoire du Coton (COIC), describes it, with a glance at the notebook in which the tonnages of yogurt producers are recorded. In Korhogo, the cleaning and ginning units of COIC, one of the country’s largest cotton companies, lie idle. “Employees work two or three months instead of the usual five or six”compares head of production Lasina Dagnogo.

Because from June 2022, thousands of farmers are facing the attacks of Jassis almost helplessly. Well known here, these pests regularly attack cotton fields in the north of the country but are often controlled by insecticides during various stages of plant development.

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The Jayside that appeared at the beginning of the campaign proved to be more resistant to the products used by the producers this time around. And for good reason: “It is a new species that has appeared in our fields and has spread throughout the cotton-growing region,” revealed entomologist Malano Koukou at the National Center for Agronomic Research (CNRA) in Bouake. This species discovered for the first time in India may have reached West Africa because “Globalization and Trade”Researcher thinks.

two new pesticides

While growers were used to a small white moth, this one is green with two black dots on its back. “And this species is more mobile”, The entomologist notes, who works with six other researchers on cotton issues , “It grows on different plants, different crops, which makes it difficult to control. It has the ability to multiply faster than others. ,

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In this regional crisis, the CNRA is proud to be the first laboratory to sound the alarm thanks to an early warning system that it would like to see expanded to neighboring countries. Its researchers have developed two new insecticides from existing active ingredients. Tested in the laboratory and in the field, they will be available during the next campaign.

Researchers are working on creating more resistant varieties, such as cotton with “hairy” leaves.

“Obviously, these are polluting products, but the amounts we use meet the standards”We assure CNRA. “And these are short-term products, emergency solutions”Malano Koukaou, a long-time advocate of biocontrol methods, emphasizes: “We need to study this species more, find out its weak points, observe its natural enemies in its own ecosystem, manage water better by developing suitable irrigation systems for cotton growing. » Meanwhile, researchers are also working on creating more resistant varieties, such as cotton with “hairy” leaves that may have the ability to repel pests.

Cotton leaves are turned red by jassids, small insects that destroy plantations.

For Côte d’Ivoire, which is one of the top 5 cotton producers in Africa, there is no question now of breaking the record of 550,000 tonnes produced last year, as expected. According to field experts, half the crop may be destroyed. If insects have also attacked in Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso and Togo, then here the disaster occurs on such a large scale.“a national tragedy”In the words of Prime Minister Patrick Achie, during a visit to the region in November, during which he promised aid to support the booming cotton industry.

Lejni Soro, accustomed to good cotton years, owes huge debts every year to pay for his inputs, his workers and his middlemen. But this year he will not be able to repay the 4.6 million CFA francs (about 7,000 euros) invested in the campaign. “Growers go into debt to produce their cotton, Adama remembers Silu, Director General of COIC. But today, in the absence of sufficient production, most of them are unable to repay. We are in trouble. ,

climate regulation

According to the Cashew Cotton Council (CCA), which is responsible for regulating the sector and acting as a link between 132,000 growers and the government, “The state has undertaken to buy back the loans of producers during a presidential council held in January”, A new potential aid when the state already has to curb the rising cost of fertilizers in 2022 with subsidies.

For researchers and players in the field, climate change is responsible for the multiplication of these nuisances. “The campaign starts in the rainy season in May, June. and if it remains dry for more than ten days during the first months, it becomes a favorable condition for the establishment of the pest., Malano develops Kauakau. During periods of drought, which are becoming increasingly longer in the north of the country, the pest, in search of water, sucks the sap of cotton plants to feed itself, which dries out the plants and stunts their growth. Is.

According to Bakri Souro Coulibaly, technical advisor to the Compagnie Ivoire du Coton, the tonnage recorded in the notebook

For agronomist Gaussou Roger Soro, general manager of the NGO Animation Rurale de Corhogo, this crisis is also the result of poor agricultural practices. “In our area, soil erosion is caused by chemical inputs and land pressure, He sees Growers no longer have other fields to work in and cannot practice crop rotation, allowing the land to breathe. In this context, the plant can better resist pests. ,

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In recent months, some growers have expressed a desire to leave cotton cultivation. But in the face of this crisis, they can for the time being rely on an important measure taken by the sector several years ago, which is to subsidize each year the portion of inputs for food crops that they need to feed their families. allows feeding. The CCA estimates that 3 million people in Côte d’Ivoire depend on an income from cotton.