Scientists at the National Horticultural Research Institute (NIHORT) have detected a new virus attacking Okra plants across Nigeria.
Reports are being received from farmers across Nigeria concerning the new and uncommon virus-like symptoms on Okra farms, leading to a rapid disease outbreak resulting in more than a 70 percent loss of okra plants in certain situations.
Observation by a multidisciplinary team from NIHORT on ad-hoc visits to okra farms revealed an unusual symptom in okra that consists of leaf curl associated with enations or outgrowths. These symptoms were distinct from the usual leaf curl and/or vein yellowing symptoms known with virus-infected okra plants.
Also, a high population of aphids and leafhoppers was observed on the leaves of okra plants in farms that were inspected.
This epidemic has assumed a nationwide occurrence, having been reported in Southwest states like Oyo, Ogun, Osun, Ondo, Ekiti, Lagos, and Niger state in North Central.
Farmers are urged to look out for the symptoms of the new virus: a high population of aphids and leafhoppers (vectors); and initial expression of small pin-head enations or outgrowths on the undersurface of okra leaves. This is followed by a warty and rough texture of leaves, with leaves curling upwards. Affected plants show a twisting of the necrotic leaves, becoming thick and leathery.
The curling and enations are more prevalent on leaves that develop soon after infection than on later leaves, and okra plants are severely stunted with small, mostly deformed fruits, making them unfit for marketing.