Lilongwe Agricultural authorities have confirmed about the outbreak of a strange pawpaw disease that has attacked number of trees in the area.
Nixon Nyalugwe, a crop protection officer at the Lilongwe Agricultural Development Division (ADD), called the disease, Papaya mealy bug.
He said the disease is characterized by a white woolly coating, that in some instances covers the whole fruit, making it less attractive for consumption.
Nyalugwe disclosed that the neighboring Tanzania and Zambia have registered the same disease in their pawpaw fruits.
According to him, the problem has been reported as severe in Areas 47 and 49, where almost 90% of the pawpaw trees, are under attack, and that it is likely to spill to other areas.
He said, the problem has led to secondary infection of what he called the phytopthora fruit rot.
“Papaya mealy bug originated from Central America, and was reported as the pest of economic importance in 2009; it appears as cotton-like masses on the plant, and it sucks sap and weakens the plant. In severe cases, it leads to secondary infections,” he said.
The Lilongwe ADD crop protection officer, said the Papaya mealy bug can be managed by pruning and burning affected branches, and by avoiding movement of plants from affected areas.
“Removal of weeds and alternate hosts, and application of botanical pesticides, soap water or Dimethoate 30EC (2ml/litre of water), can also help manage the disease,” he disclosed.
Meanwhile, Nyalugwe said they would quickly meet at ministry level to discuss the way forward on public sensitization, before the problem gets out of hand