By Matsobane Manaka
One of team members of Agronomy stationed at Limpopo Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Head Office continues to receive accolades and congratulatory messages from colleagues after scooping the Best Scientific Poster during the 56th annual SASAE conference held at University of Zululand, KwaZulu Natal Province on 28 to 31 August 2023.
Sasa represented the LDARD and rose to the occasion in a hotly contested competition using well-designed poster to tell the story visually. In her poster, namely, the use of Bacillus Thuringiensis (BT) technology in maize production for sustainable food systems: targeting the fall army worm infestation, Sasa demonstrated not only passion that drives her, but making an impact in household food security. Moreover, she levelled the playing field in a historically male-dominated space.
Sasa undertaken the maize trial on the smallholder farmers’ fields. The trial was informed by the challenges faced by smallholder farmers face the continuing pests resistant such as fall armyworm (FAW) and diseases in their field, which often cause massive destruction in crops such as maize resulting in increased yield losses. Pests’ resistant due to its characters of feeding inside the developing maize crops continue unabated despite many attempts to control it in various methods – be it chemical, physical, biological, and natural methods.
Using a poster to address technologies as intervention for sustainable food systems, Sasa indicated that the field was prepared with a disc plough two weeks after being prepared by moldboard plough.
The poster indicated further that the planting was done using a planter with inter row spacing of 25cm and intra row spacing of 50cm. Three maize seeds were planted as follows: farmer’s seed, PAN 5R-590BR and the PAN 5R-590R. Of these three varieties, PAN 5R-590BR was altered with Bt and PAN 5R-590R was not altered – the two varieties were roundup ready which they could be weeded with roundup chemical without being damaged. The farmer’s seed was neither been treated with Bt nor carried upon with roundup ready. This meant that it could be damaged by FAW and could not be weeded with roundup.
The results of the trial showed that more damaged leaves in PAN 5R-590R and farmer’s seeds than the PAN 5R-590BR, which meant that the FAW was able to freely feed on leaves as usual of non Bt maize and farmer’s seeds due to lack of the Bt technology. On the other hand, the PAN 5R-590BR had reduced grain damage than the PAN 5R-590R
and farmer’s seeds due to the Bt technology injected in the seed. This was due to less infestation noticed on leaves and cobs of the Bt maize.
In conclusion the poster made assertion that the Bt technology protected the maize crop from the damage by FAW. The observation was due to reduced infestation of FAW. The damage on leaves and cobs were less damage to grains could mean more yield.
The extension implications according to the poster, imply that the use of pest resistant technologies in farmers’ field remains the tool for sustainable food systems.