Guava industry worried about disease outbreak

Guava producers in the Western Cape are looking forward to a better year after difficult weather conditions during 2011 caused massive crop losses.

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Meanwhile guava farmers in the northern parts of the country are facing a serious threat due to a guava wilt disease outbreak and several hectares of trees have already been destroyed.According to guava farmer, Gerhard van Rooyen of Phatala Boerdery in Limpopo, farmers in this region expected a normal season during 2012, barring the impact of guava wilt disease.

“We noticed the first signs of a disease outbreak in September 2011. Farms in the Luvubu area appear to be more seriously affected. Some farmers in Luvubu have had to destroy about 500 trees per month since the outbreak,” he said. Van Rooyen was one of the speakers at a Guava Information Day held during the Bien Donné Agri Cape Week in Paarl.

The industry is struggling to contain the outbreak because there is a new fungal pathogen which appears to be spreading faster than the previous pathogen. The spread of the disease is being exacerbated by the fact that the outbreak occurred in high plant density orchards. Laboratory trials are underway at the University of Pretoria to find effective fungicides and biological agents against the new guava wilt disease pathogen, said Van Rooyen.

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Wiehan Victor, Western Cape guava farmer and CEO of the Guava Producers Association, reported on industry expectations for the year ahead for the province. “We had a disappointing harvest last year due to adverse weather conditions, including a very dry summer and late rains. “As a result, the total harvest was less than 20 000t, but all indications are that things will return to normal this (2012) season and we expect a harvest of about 25 000t,” he said.