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Farmers’ Perceptions on Arthropod Pests of Watermelon and their Management Practices in the Nigerian Southern Guinea Savanna



Emmanuel Okrikata and Emmanuel Oludele Ogunwolu
 
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ABSTRACT

Background and Objective: Watermelon is adapted to a wide variety of agro-ecology and has high nutritive, therapeutic and income generating values. Arthropod pests remain its major productivity constraint around the World. Productivity can be enhanced through pest management researches that consider farmers’ knowledge gaps and indigenous control practices. This study is designed to determine the watermelon farmers’ knowledge and perceptions on arthropod pests and their indigenous control strategies within the Nigerian Southern Guinea Savanna zone. Materials and Methods: A structured questionnaire was administered to 129 randomly selected farmers across 3 local government areas (LGA) in each of Benue, Nasarawa and Taraba states of Nigeria under the guide of agricultural extension and communication officers in 2015. The responses elicited include farming practices, production profiles, perception and attitudes of farmers toward pests, pest damage and pest control practices. The data collected were analyzed using descriptive and inferential (Fisher’s exact test) statistics using SPSS 19.0. Results: There were no significant differences among states in socio-economic characteristics (gender, age and level of education) and cropping system. However, Fishers exact test showed significantly (p<0.05) higher proportion of farmers with 5<15 years farming experience in Nasarawa state (51.1%) when compared with Benue state (4.4%). A similar trend was observed on proportion of farmers cultivating large hectarages (>4ha). Across the 3 states, 68.5% of the respondents identified leaf beetles as the major biological constraint. In Gassol LGA of Taraba state, Agnoscelis versicolor was also designated a major pest. Infestation and damage by aphids, fruit-flies and millipedes was of serious concern to 8.4, 6.3 and 5.3% of the respondents, respectively. A large proportion of the respondents had no contact with extension service providers or with extension publications on pest control. Suppression of pest damage with synthetic insecticides was prevalent (done by 79.7% of the respondents). Spray frequencies were as outrageous as 25 times on the early-sown crop. Conclusion: This study finding underscores the need to revitalize extension services and educate farmers on pest recognition and judicious pesticide usage in watermelon production as most of the respondents depended on family, friends and pesticide vendors for pest control information.

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  How to cite this article:

Emmanuel Okrikata and Emmanuel Oludele Ogunwolu, 2017. Farmers’ Perceptions on Arthropod Pests of Watermelon and their Management Practices in the Nigerian Southern Guinea Savanna. International Journal of Agricultural Research, 12: 146-155.

DOI: 10.3923/ijar.2017.146.155

URL: https://scialert.net/abstract/?doi=ijar.2017.146.155
 
Received: August 21, 2017; Accepted: September 26, 2017; Published: October 05, 2017

INTRODUCTION

Watermelon (Citrullus lanatus Thunb.) is adapted to a wide variety of agro-ecology1,2. Its cultivation spans through several countries in Africa, America, Asia and Europe2-4. It has immense benefits to man due to its high nutritive (richness in vitamins A, C, potassium, magnesium and iron), therapeutic (possession of diverse anti-oxidants, diuretic, cancer and hypertension reducing properties) and economic (income generation and valuable contribution to national gross domestic product) values5-7. Hitherto in Nigeria, commercial production of watermelon was preponderantly in the Savanna agro-ecology; awareness of its high economic value4,8-10 has encouraged more people to embark on its cultivation in other agro-ecological zones of Nigeria. Across all production zones, minimization of cost and maximization of production efficiency and profit11 are common goals which are not commonly achieved on account of the diversity of farmers’ value system, experience, needs, production technology and efficiency and environmental challenges (productivity-limiting climatic, edaphic and biotic factors)12,13. It is thus expedient to carry out location-specific assessment of crop performance.

Insect depredation negatively impacts farm and farmer productivity in both garden and commercial cultivation of watermelon14. Capacity to mitigate damage depends upon farmer’s perception on pest damage impact and availability and accessibility to the recommended and adoptable pest management tactics. Wide gaps in farmers’ knowledge on bio-ecology and status of pests as well as farmers’ inclination towards indigenous pest management tactics limit production efficiency and profitability15,16. Productive capacity and efficiency can be enhanced meaningfully through pest management research that takes cognizance of farmers’ needs, values, knowledge gaps, indigenous control practices and skill in resource utilization13,17-22. Pest management research and recommendations are scanty in many parts of the world where commercial watermelon production is new.

Understanding farmers’ indigenous knowledge and perceptions on pest challenges and their coping strategies is important in designing researches that will meet the needs of the farmers and solutions found, easily adopted23,24. Such information is scarce with regards to watermelon in Nigeria and specifically, within the Nigerian Southern Guinea Savanna agro-ecology where commercial cultivation of watermelon is relatively new. This survey is therefore designed to determine the perceptions of watermelon farmers regarding pests in general and arthropod pests in particular and, their control strategies at selected sites within the Southern Guinea Savanna zone of Nigeria.

MATERIALS AND METHODS

The study was carried out between June and August, 2015. A total of 129 farmers from 43 villages (all within the Southern Guinea Savanna agro-ecology of Nigeria) spread across 9 local government areas (LGAs) in 3 states were selected for the study following a multistage sampling technique. Benue, Nasarawa and Taraba states were purposively selected based on expanding interest in commercial watermelon production. Within each of the 3 states, 3 LGAs and within each LGA, 5 villages (except, Donga LGA of Taraba state where 3 villages were visited) were again purposively selected based on the volume of watermelon production. In each village, 3 watermelon farmers were randomly selected for the interview. The survey sites and co-ordinates are shown in Table 1 and Fig. 1.

Data were collected through a face-to-face interview using a structured questionnaire under the guide of indigenous agricultural extension officers. This was complemented with field observation to validate information on pest identity and the damage they cause. The questionnaire was peer-reviewed and pilot-tested on 15 farmers (not included in the sample), 2 weeks before the commencement of the study after which a few changes were made in the expression of some of the questions after also taking into consideration the inputs of the extension officers. The information gathered through the questionnaire traversed demographics, farming practices, production profiles, perception and attitudes of farmers toward pests, pest damage and pest control practices.

Statistical analysis: The data collected were subjected to descriptive and inferential fisher’s exact test (FET) statistics using SPSS version 19.0 (SPSS Inc., Chicago, Illinois). Following the methods of Nantoume et al.25 and Sales et al.26, FET was used to compare the variables constituting farmers’ characteristics among states surveyed and to determine association between farmers’ characteristics and insecticide spraying frequencies. The probability value (p-value) was estimated using the two sided test at 5% level of significance.

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

In commercial crop farming, age, education, farming experience, contact with extension workers and membership of co-operative societies are known to exert significant impact on technical efficiency of farmers10,27,28.

Fig. 1:Map of Nigeria indicating states and local government areas surveyed
  Source: Satellite Maps (2015)

Table 1:List of villages surveyed with their coordinates and respective local government areas

Table 2 shows respondents’ socio-economic characteristics, whereas states differed significantly (p<0.05) with respect to farm size and farming experience, the differences in gender, age range and level of education were due to random variation. Male dominance of watermelon production was evident (mean ratio of 8:1 with a range from 4.6:1-21.5:1) similar to the findings of Banjo et al.29 and Yusuf et al.30.

Table 2:Socio-economic characteristics and cropping system of sampled watermelon farmers
#Percentage of respondents, ##Fisher’s exact test p-value, *Significant (p<0.05), **Significant (p<0.01), ns = Not significant (p>0.05). +Each superscript letter denotes a subset of categories whose row proportions do not differ significantly by Fisher’s exact test (p>0.05). $Adapted from Benjamin et al.23

This may be attributable to the easier access men have to land and economic empowerment31-33. Given the reports by Benjamin et al.23 and Okonya et al.34 on female efficiency in fruit and vegetable production and given the livelihood enhancement potential of watermelon, more women should be encouraged and empowered to go into production.

As pointed out by Adenegan et al.35, age significantly influences farm and farmer productivity. Table 2 shows that in each state and across the three states, the age bracket with the highest frequency of respondents was 31-40 years. As high as 63.6% of the respondents were in the age bracket (30-50 years) designated by Oladoja et al.36 and Olaniran et al.24 as active in the highly labour-intensive peasantry farming. Approximately one-third of the respondents had no formal education (the sample in Nasarawa state had the highest proportion of respondents in this category) and just about the same proportion (one-third) had primary level education. Banjo et al.29 similarly found that most farmers growing horticultural crops in Southwestern Nigeria had no formal education. This has implication for farmers’ efficiency in production, decision-making, openness to innovative ideas and new technologies and is the key to enhanced productivity37-39.

Commercial cultivation of watermelon generally seems to be a recent development in the areas surveyed. Farming experience was <15 years compared with 2-33 years in areas surveyed in Kano and <5->20 years in areas surveyed in Moro LGA of Kwara state1,9. Majority (69.6%) of the respondents had <5 years experience; Benue state had the highest proportion of respondents with <1-<5 years farming experience; the proportions for Nasarawa and Taraba states were significantly lower (Table 3). In the 5 to <15 years category, the latter two states were statistically comparable (51.1 and 35.9%, respectively) but each differed significantly from Benue state. Based on the scale of production given by Benjamin et al.23, watermelon production in the areas surveyed generally ranged from small- (<1.0 ha) to medium-scale (1.0-<4.0 ha). Across the states, commercial production of watermelon was generally small-scaled with 44.0% of the respondents cultivating <1 ha. This value is considerably <70.0% reported by Chamo et al.40 in their survey of Gada Community, Jigawa state, Nigeria. Benue state had the highest proportion of small-scale farmers.

Table 3:Farmers’ cropping system in different states
*Percentage of respondents. #Multiple choice allowed

Differences among states in the proportions of respondents producing at medium and large scale were not significant. Results of the surveys conducted in Ekiti state9, Kano state1 and Kwara state30 similarly showed preponderance of small-scale producers of watermelon.

Watermelon was preponderantly monocropped (70.7% of respondents against 29.1% who intercropped) and rainfed (just 19.6% of respondents produced irrigated crop). The low production in the early season is attributed high intensity production of food crops, higher pest infestation of watermelon, low yield and low market value41. For varietal selection, higher premium was placed on crop yield, market value, availability of seeds than on avoidance of pest infestation and damage. A similar finding was reported by Alghali42 in a study of cowpea farming practices in Nigeria. Association of watermelon producers was virtually non-existent; the only one found was in Ruttu village, Nasarawa state.

Arthropods were designated the most frequently encountered, abundant and economically damaging pests causing quantitative and qualitative losses as well as increasing production cost because of insecticide usage to mitigate damage (Table 4). Insects, most notably beetles, were the predominant arthropods and the most productivity-limiting. This is consistent with the findings of Alao et al.43 who monitored insect infestation on watermelon at Ogbomoso. Also, rural farmers producing fruit vegetables in Ogbomoso had accorded major pest status to insect pests24. Except for the wrong designation of bees as pests by 10.2% of the respondents, all other insects listed as pests in Table 4 agrees with the report of Ogunlana44, Bamaiyi et al.45 and Alao et al.43. According to Webb46, bees are very important watermelon pollinators that require protection, attraction and even augmentation during the crop’s blooming period. In this study, a pentatomid bug, Agnoscelis versicolor F., was found in Gassol LGA of Taraba state where it was accorded major pest status. This is the first report of infestation of A. versicolor on watermelon in Nigeria. However, across northeast Africa and southwest Asia, a species of Agnoscelis has been reported to attack cucurbits including watermelon47.

An insignificant proportion of the respondents ( x̄ = 6.3%) took no control action to mitigate arthropod pest damage (Table 5); there were at least two of such respondents in each State. Application of synthetic insecticides was the prevalent method of control ( x̄ = 88.9%) (Table 5). The commonly used insecticides were lambda cyhalothrin (Karate), cypermethrin (Best), permethrin powder (Pif Paf), cypermethrin+ dimethoate (best action) and pirimiphos-methyl+permethrin (Attack). Spray frequency traversed 1 to >25 per growing season (Fig. 2) and it was not significantly influenced by any of the respondent’s socio-economic characteristics except gender (Table 6). Male farmers have been shown to use pesticides more often and at a higher rate than their female counterparts48,49. In contrast, in the study by Denkyirah et al.50, significant association was shown between each of level of education and farming experience and the frequency of pesticide application on cocoa in Ghana.

Not surprisingly, majority of the respondents (x̄ = 77.7%) protected the seedling and vegetative growth stages of watermelon having recognized that leaf beetles impacted negatively on crop productivity.

Table 4:Farmers’ perceptions on pests of watermelon
*Percentage of respondents. #Responses of those who rated arthropods as most important only. $Multiples responses allowed

Table 5:Adopted methods of arthropod pest control on watermelon
*Percentage of respondents. #Multiple choice allowed. $Responses of those using synthetic insecticides

Synthetic insecticide usage in the area surveyed can be adjudged injudicious and hazardous. It could not have been otherwise given the paucity of contact of respondents with agricultural extension personnel or agricultural extension publication and the overwhelming dependence (x̄ = 72.3%) upon pesticide marketers and vendors as source of information on pest control (Table 7).

Fig. 2:Frequency of application of synthetic insecticides/growing season

Table 6:Farmers’ source of information on pest control
*Percentage of respondents. #Multiple responses allowed

Table 7:
Association between farmer’s characteristics and frequency of application of insecticides/growing season
*Significant at p<0.05, ns = Not significant (p>0.05)

Mahmud et al.51 and Akan et al.52 have already documented organophosphate, pyrethroid and organochlorine insecticide residue above the maximum limits set by the European Union on watermelon in some parts of Gashua LGA of Yobe State. Other consequences of inappropriate insecticide usage in general and in watermelon production in particular have been highlighted by Souza et al.53. The other pest control methods adopted: Cultural (disposal of infested fruits and timely fruit harvest), mechanical destruction of pests, application of ash, washing powder solution, plant- and animal-derived insecticide minutely contributed to pest damage mitigation.

Ibrahim et al.10 reported that years of farming experience, extension and membership of co-operative society were the main sources of technical inefficiency. It is obvious that respondents who applied insecticides frequently have not weighted its impact on their production cost and revenue. In addition to limiting farmers’ technical efficiency and profitability, injudicious usage insecticides will have far-reaching consequences on agro-ecosystem and environment. The knowledge gap has to be bridged through research to generate recommendation on adoptable pest density/damage level at which insecticide usage is justified and bridged through on-farm demonstration and farmer education.

CONCLUSION

The survey results highlight a generally high level of farmers’ awareness on the economic impact of insect pests to watermelon production. The chrysomelid beetles reported to be the most devastating except in Gassol LGA, Taraba state where A. versicolor was reported as the most devastating. Pesticide use among the farmers was also very high and quite extensive. There is, therefore, a serious need for field education of farmers on judicious use of pesticides to protect insect pollinators (primarily bees), natural enemies of insect pests, the environment and most importantly, man. A huge gap in extension services was also show cased. This requires that the government and/or the related agencies make deliberate efforts to revitalize extension services. Based on the study findings, it is suggested that further study in this study area should examine pesticide related health issues such as reproductive abnormalities, pesticide poisonings and musculoskeletal pains as a result of occupational contact with pesticides.

SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENTS

This study discovers the needs, knowledge and perceptions on pest problems and their control by local watermelon farmers in Southern Guinea agro-ecology of Nigeria. This information is unavailable. This study will help the researcher to uncover farmers’ perceptions of pests and their indigenous control methods. This information will be beneficial for researchers in pest management as it is a prerequisite for developing successful pest management strategies.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

The authors greatly acknowledge all the farmers who were interviewed in this research for willingly providing all the information demanded from them. The authors are also thankful to the following extension officers for their unflinching support during the execution of this research; Mr. Innocent Tarnzughur of Benue State Agricultural and Rural Development Authority, Alhaji Danjuma Mohammed of Nasarawa State Agricultural Development Programme, Mr. Jiki Andokari Gede and Mr. Bulus Burba of Taraba State Agricultural Development Programme, Wukari Division, Mr. Edward Bala Kaduna of Taraba State Agricultural Development Programme, Gassol LGA Division.

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