Plant viruses are major constraints to crop production worldwide, causing US$60 billion losses annually. This study assessed various agricultural sector stakeholders’ knowledge and perceptions of plant viruses in Zimbabwe. Data was collected from six provinces using surveys and participatory rural appraisal methodologies between December 2013 and October 2014. Maize streak virus, Tobacco mosaic virus, Cucumber mosaic virus, Tomato mosaic virus and Groundnut rosette virus were ranked as the country’s five most important plant viruses by agricultural technical staff. Most (72%) technical staff rated Maize streak virus as the most important plant virus in Zimbabwe. Over 30% of farmers were self-taught to identify diseases, while only 15.3% were trained by agricultural extension staff. Most (95.8%) technical staff trained people in disease identification through running short courses, use of demonstration plots and field days. The majority (41.9%) of farmers recommended the use of radio/TV/newspaper broadcasts to improve virus awareness. Only 23.7% of farmers and 41.6% of technical staff had heard about TSWV/tospoviruses. While most (97.2%) technical staff rated TSWV/tospoviruses as “fairly important” to “very important” plant pathogens, only 15.7% were able to correctly identify tospoviral vectors. The study showed that there is poor knowledge of plant viruses the stakeholders in the agricultural sector. There is need to train the technical staff in plant virology so that they can disseminate their knowledge to farmers for improved virus disease management.
Key words: Awareness, disease identification, tospoviruses, training.
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