Open access peer-reviewed chapter

Harnessing Technologies for Vegetable Cultivation: A Panacea for Food and Nutrition Insecurity in Ghana

Written By

Michael Kwabena Osei, Peter Amoako Ofori, Joseph Adjebeng-Danquah, Stella Owusu Nketia, Kofi Frimpong-Anin, Isaac Osei-Bonsu, Richard Yaw Agyare, Jacinta Opoku-Adoma, Patrick Ofori, Emmanuel Asamoah Adjei, Isaac Newton, Joseph Gyau and Doris Puozaa

Submitted: November 13th, 2021 Reviewed: December 3rd, 2021 Published: April 20th, 2022

DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.101877

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Abstract

Vegetable plays a key role in food and nutrition security in Ghana as the country’s food system shifts from food quantity to diet quality and health benefits. This chapter looks at the role vegetables play in the diets of humans in ensuring food and nutrition security. Traditional locally available underutilized vegetable crops as well as exotic vegetable crops could be utilized to improve nutrition and health. One of the strategies for promoting vegetable production is the development and adoption of innovative and modern technologies to address major challenges impeding the advancement of vegetable production in Ghana. These challenges include lack of improved varieties, nonfunctional seed systems, poor infrastructure for storage and processing, uncontrolled use of agrochemicals, etc. Genetic manipulation, soil and water management as well as integrated pest and disease management have been harnessed with significant achievement to boost vegetable production. Other emerging, including nursery management, controlled environment (such as a greenhouse), grafting, post-harvest handling, digital marketing, information and extension services can also be promoted. Greenhouse production increases vegetable crop quality and productivity, which results in higher economic returns. Finally, the chapter highlights the enormous prospects and contributions of vegetable production towards reducing rural poverty and unemployment.

Keywords

  • vegetable farming
  • food security
  • prospects
  • technologies

1. Introduction

Today's agriculture regularly uses sophisticated technologies such as robots, temperature and moisture sensors, aerial images, and GPS technology. These advanced devices and precision agriculture and robotic systems allow businesses to be more profitable, efficient, safer, and more environmentally friendly. Farmers who aim to increase their yields must have an efficient irrigation system at hand. Providing plants with the appropriate amount of water directly improves the development of the plants and, consequently, the crop yields. In the past, agricultural production in Ghana has been heavily reliant on rainfall, while fertilizers and pesticides have been inappropriately used, partly due to a lack of extension services. Overall, farmers struggled with their farm operations and adoption of improved technologies due to the huge gap between technology development and information access to information on them. But now, Ghana is facing a bright future following the intervention of science, technology, and innovation in agricultural production. Agriculture is becoming a profitable venture and using suitable scientific approaches, Ghanaian farmers are beginning to reap the benefits of their efforts.

Vegetable growers face a variety of challenges, including pests and diseases, labor shortages, and climate change. Most vegetable production in Ghana is carried out by smallholder farmers who use basic farm implements on their farms. Production takes place predominantly on raised beds, ridges, or bare ground in open fields. Furthermore, cultivation is often under a rainfed system which only allows for production within two seasons or even one season of the year depending on the location of the farm within the country. Supplementary irrigation may be provided at the nursery and early field establishment stage using either watering cans, buckets, knapsack sprayers, and sometimes small motorized pumps or various combinations of these methods. Over-reliance on rainfall for vegetable production and the erratic nature of rainfall patterns in recent years, a consequence of climate change, often results in severe losses due to poor yield in the event of drought or long dry spells.

In the last few decades, several “smart” technologies have been developed for the vegetable production and processing of vegetables. Some of which include nursery management technology, protected or screenhouse vegetable cultivation, grafting technology, and information technology in vegetable production. Nevertheless, vegetable growers are confronted with a variety of challenges when considering adopting new technology or adjusting existing technology. Growers are being offered solutions that might not work in their specific production system or might not be economically feasible. This chapter presents examples of state-of-the-art technologies that may be used in vegetable production today or in the near future. It further looks at the vegetable production trends in Ghana and the challenges associated with vegetable cultivation. In addition, it discusses the emerging technologies of vegetables and gives a description of advanced technologies in vegetable production in Ghana based on genetic improvement, Soil fertility improvement, irrigation as well as pest and diseases management practices. It also shows the characteristics of research and farmers’ involvement in advanced technologies in vegetable production. Finally, it describes the prospects of vegetable production to food and nutrition security in Ghana.

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2. Vegetable production trends in Ghana

In this section general vegetable production practices in Ghana are enumerated with emphasis on conventional practices, urban and peri-urban vegetable production. Although some emerging technologies such as cultivation in screen houses are becoming common in Ghana, these will be dealt with in a separate section and thus will not be the focus here.

2.1 Types of vegetables grown in Ghana

Ghana has a tropical climate and for that reason, most of the vegetables cultivated in Ghana are those that have a tropical origin. Notwithstanding, some subtropical and temperate vegetables that can thrive in tropical climates are also grown, although the yields are often lower compared to those grown in their ideal climates. Vegetables grown in Ghana can be classified as either exotic or local/traditional depending on their origin. The types of vegetables (both local and exotic) grown in a specific region in the country often depend on a number of factors including but not limited to the demand in that area and the suitability of the micro-climatic conditions for that specific vegetable crop. However, for most rural areas, the former factor is not a major consideration since in most cases the produce is transported to urban centers to be sold. In the case of those targeted for the export market, proximity to ports is a major factor in the choice of area for cultivation. Whereas some of the exotic and local vegetables are consumed by Ghanaians and expatriates, some of them are exported to generate foreign revenue for the country. In addition, some local vegetables are also exported. Major local vegetables cultivated in Ghana include tomato (Solanum lypersicum), pepper (Capsicum annuum– cayenne, chilli), scotch bonnet pepper (Capsicum chinense), onion (Allium cepa), shallot (Allium cepavar. aggregatum), garden eggs (Solanum melongena), and okra (Abelmoschus esculentus). Other vegetables that may be important in certain areas of the country but often classified as underutilized include leafy vegetables such as local spinach (Amaranthusspp), Jew’s mallow (Corchorusspp), gboma (Solanum macrocarpon), sweet potato leaves (Ipomea batatas), cocoyam leaves (Xanthosoma sagittifolium), roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa), among others.

Exotic vegetables grown in Ghana include cabbage (Brassica oleraceavar. capitata), lettuce (Lactuca sativa), carrot (Daucus carrota), cucumber (Cucumis sativus), spring onion (Allium fistulosum), garlic (Allium sativum), cauliflower (Brassica oleraceavar. botrytis), French beans (Phaseolus vulgaris), beetroot (Beta vulgarissubsp. vulgarisConditiva), radish (Raphanus sativus), bell/sweet pepper (Capsicum annuum), squash (Cucurbitaspp), and pumpkin (Cucurbitaspp). Asian vegetables such as yard long bean (Vigna unguiculatasubsp. sesquipedalis) and Chinese cabbage (Brassica rapasubsp. pekinensis) are also cultivated mostly for the export market.

2.2 Conventional approach to vegetable production

Most vegetable production in Ghana is carried out by smallholder farmers who use basic farm implements on their farms. Production takes place predominantly on raised beds, ridges, or bare ground in open fields. Nursery establishment for those vegetables that do not need to be planted at stake is mostly on nursery beds created close to the site of cultivation. The vegetables are often cultivated on a piece of land owned or rented by these farmers as is mostly the case. Manual labor is used for most farm activities by the farmer with the help of family members or hired farm hands. For example, weeding is by use of hoe, cutlass, and/or spraying of chemicals using knapsack sprayers. However, in recent times some farmers who have larger farms are incorporating some level of mechanization such as the use of tractor-drawn tools (plough and harrow) for land preparation. Nevertheless, most of the other practices such as seeding, weeding, and harvesting are still carried out manually.

Furthermore, cultivation is often under the rainfed system which only allows for production within two seasons or even one season of the year depending on the agroecology within which the farm is located in the country. Supplementary irrigation may be provided at the nursery and early field establishment stage using either watering cans, buckets, knapsack sprayers, and sometimes small motorized pumps or various combinations of these methods. Over-reliance on rainfall for vegetable production and the erratic nature of rainfall patterns in recent years, a consequence of climate change, often results in severe economic losses due to poor yields in the event of drought or long dry spells. In addition, depending on the crop and the timing of the rains, too much rain can also cause yield losses due to the high incidence of diseases and other physiological disorders such as fruit cracking. And there is also the glut associated with seasonal cultivation, which often results in a poor price for the produce based on the economic principle of demand and supply. Most farmers incur huge losses during these periods due to the low prices or rotting of the produce as a result of buyers being overwhelmed with produce. These problems have been exacerbated due to poor knowledge of appropriate postharvest handling techniques and low to minimal processing practiced by farmers.

2.3 Urban and peri-urban vegetable farming

Urban and peri-urban vegetable farming generally refers to vegetable production in open spaces or fields mostly within and along the outskirts of major urban areas. Urban vegetable cultivation is considered to have originated with the arrival of the Europeans who created gardens around castles and forts in the country from the sixteenth century [1]. In addition, due to urbanization, there have been a rise in commercial urban and peri-urban farming to meet the needs of the ever-increasing population within the urban centers. Nevertheless, the actual number of farming sites keeps fluctuating due to the loss of some farming sites as a result of development projects and the establishment of new or previously unidentified areas [2]. Most of the farmers in these urban and peri-urban sites cultivate different crops and vegetables all year round. This is due to the ability to find ways of providing supplementary irrigation in the absence of rain with the aid of watering cans, buckets, small motorized pumps, and occasionally furrow and sprinkler systems [3]. This ensures an almost regular supply of vegetables to consumers all year long. Nevertheless, with most being small-scale farmers, production is not sufficient to prevent the shortage of particular vegetables during certain times of the year. Most of the vegetables grown by farmers involved in peri-urban and urban farming in the southern part of the country are exotic vegetables such as cabbage, lettuce, carrot, spring onions, and bell pepper. Other exotic vegetables such as cauliflower, radish, and traditional vegetables including okra, tomato, hot pepper, garden eggs, local spinach, and Jew’s mallow (ayoyo) are also cultivated, although, these may be to a lesser extent in certain areas. In cities in the northern part of the country such as Tamale, local leafy vegetables, okra, tomatoes, and pepper are the pre-dominant vegetables (Figure 1) [4].

Figure 1.

A typical urban vegetable farm A typical urban vegetable farm Source [2].

2.4 Source of water for irrigation and health implications

The proximity of urban and peri-urban farms to a near-permanent source of water allows for intensive cultivation. However, the quality of the source of water for most of these farms has been a major cause of concern for many, especially in recent times. With the exception of some major sites that are close to un-polluted riverine bodies or formal irrigation sites and those that have dug out wells or tap water for irrigation, most farmers, particularly those in the urban centers, use water from river bodies or streams that are polluted with untreated municipal wastewater. Some even go to the extent of using water directly from drains for irrigation. These pose a health risk to both farmers and consumers since produce are often contaminated with fecal coliforms, helminths eggs, and heavy metals at levels higher than globally accepted [5].

2.5 Towards improving livelihoods of peri-urban farmers

A recent project funded by the Japan Social Development Fund and coordinated by the Ghana Commercial Agriculture Project, the Ghana Peri-urban Vegetables Value Chain Project (GPVVCP) is seeking to develop urban and peri-urban agriculture to improve on the livelihood of farmers as well as the safety of produce for consumers. To this end, select sites within the Greater Accra, Volta, and Ashanti regions have been targeted to pilot such a venture. The project involves setting up farmer-managed irrigation systems including the use of solar pumps and construction of washrooms and packhouses for farmers. The latter is to facilitate cleaning and value addition to produce in order to improve farmers’ incomes.

2.6 Production in-home and backyard gardens

Vegetable production in-home and backyard gardens has a long history in Ghana, although much attention was given to it as a result of the Operation Feed Yourself (OFY) policy initiated by the Acheampong government in the 1970s. Many people established farms in any space they could lay their hands on, including spaces in their homes [6]. Following the end of the government, some people still maintained their farms whereas others went on to start their own gardens when they got the opportunity. The tradition and idea of the home or backyard garden have remained with many Ghanaians who still establish their own gardens when they get the opportunity. Obuobie et al. [7] estimate that in the city of Accra alone, between 50–70 ha of land distributed among 80,000 homes (about 60% of houses in the city) are used for home gardens. Nevertheless, this figure includes land used for cultivating other crops and livestock. Following concerns about the safety of vegetables produced by some commercial farmers in the urban and peri-urban centers, more people with the wherewithal in terms of space and time have started their own backyard gardens. There are many social media groups such as the Facebook group, home gardening, Ghana where people with no farming experience can get technical knowledge about growing certain vegetables and crops in general in their backyard. Vegetables grown in the home and backyard gardens are often for home consumption, although in some cases some produce may be sold when there is excess.

2.7 Seasonal and off-season production at formal irrigation sites or banks of rivers

Attempts by the Government of Ghana and other private entities to prevent the over-reliance of agriculture on rain have led to the development of irrigation sites to enable off-season or nearly all-year-round cultivation of vegetables and other important agricultural commodities. The capacity of these irrigation schemes ranges from a few hectares to hundreds and even thousands of hectares, making use of rivers, lakes, and existing or newly created dams. A typical example of such sites is the Tono dam located in the Kassena-Nankana District and managed by the Irrigation Company of Upper Region Ltd. This dam spanning about 2.5 miles serves close to 2500 ha of land used for the cultivation of various vegetables and crops. With general oversight and development by the Ghana Irrigation Development Authority in collaboration with key stakeholders and management by Scheme Management Entities, a total of 57 schemes spread across the entire country exist to provide irrigation for the production of different vegetables and crops over a total area 16175 ha [8]. These sites may be located in rural areas or within urban centers depending on the source of water for irrigation. Invariably, those within the urban centers play a key role in urban vegetable production. More recently, the Government of Ghana under the leadership of His Excellency, Nana Addo Dankwah Akuffo-Addo rolled out a policy named ‘One Village One Dam’ (1V1D) which sought to create small earth dams in certain villages to serve as sources of water for agriculture (both crops and livestock). A total of 439 dams were planned, 375 of which were in various stages of completion, with 64 of them were between 90–100% completed as at October 2020 [9]. Each dam was constructed to provide irrigation water for at least 5 ha of farmland. Nevertheless, recent evidence from Sore [10] of the MyJoyOnline team shows that some of the dams were poorly constructed and almost dried up during the dry season and as such, they were only used as a source of drinking water for livestock but not for the production of vegetables or other crops.

Regardless, the prospects look good for access to irrigation by farmers for vegetable production throughout the country with the proposed development of an additional 8 irrigation sites by Ghana Irrigation Development Authority (GIDA) with funding from the Export Development and Agricultural Investment Fund (EDAIF) [8]. These new projects will cover over 12,000 ha spread between 7 regions within the country. Moreover, farmers in the Upper East Region will have an additional boost for vegetable production from the impending construction of the Pwalugu Multipurpose Irrigation Project in the Talensi District which will supply irrigation water for about 25,000 ha of land and benefit 15,000 people.

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3. Challenges associated with vegetable production in Ghana

3.1 Limited number of varieties

Vegetables continue to play important role in the diet of most Ghanaian households. These vegetables are eaten raw or cooked, serving as a major source of plant protein. There are two major sources namely local and exotic. Examples of the local vegetables are kontomire(cocoa yam leaves), cassava leaves, pepper, bokorbokor, alefuand many others. Examples of exotic vegetables are cabbage, carrot, lettuce, French beans, common beans (Phaseolus vulgaris), cowpea (Vigna unguiculata) among others. Compared to other food crops such as the root and tubers, and cereals, vegetable growers face the challenge of a limited number of improved varieties. The majority of the local vegetable have not been improved or new varieties released to replace the old ones leading to reduced productivity due to low climate adaptation. The number of vegetables consumed in Ghana has decreased due to the continual selection and domestication of just few crops. People acquire a preference for specific vegetable types. As a result, they go for just those vegetables, which also inform farmers to grow only those vegetables. They reuse their stored seeds for successive planting, resulting in the extinction of other kinds [11]. Imported seeds are used by other farmers who grow exotic crops like cabbage, carrots, lettuce, and so on. Their preferences inform seed importers on which kinds to bring to market, resulting in a reduction in the number of types of those vegetables available. The exotic vegetables on the other hand are also limited due to the fact that breeding is not done in country due to the climatic requirement needed for the reproductive phase of the crop. Farmers, therefore, rely on only a few tried and tested varieties that have been introduced over the years leading to low productivity as a result of diseases and pest build-up. Most of the breeding programs have centered on the cereals, root and tubers, and the legumes to the neglect of the vegetables.

3.2 Scarcity of seeds

Another constraint is inadequate access to high-quality improved vegetable seed cultivars. Vegetable farmers in Ghana and other countries in sub-Saharan Africa are constrained by factors such as poor quality and availability of seeds. For the local vegetables, farmers rely on farmer-saved seeds from previous harvests, local markets, or from friends whiles others also buy seedlings from the local markets. These sources are normally unreliable, seeds are sometimes of poor quality (physical and genetic) leading to low productivity and high cost of production. The imported seeds also have problems with acclimatization as most of them come from the temperate regions and when they are exposed immediately to tropical conditions lose viability quickly. Improper storage condition at the retail shops also affects the quality.

In Ghana, it is difficult to find vegetable seed growers, unlike staple crops. The Grains and Legumes Development Board (GLDB) not only lacks the capacity to absorb all breeder seeds generated by research institutions, but it also lacks the capacity to create sufficient amounts of foundation seed to fulfill the demands of seed businesses and seed producers. When research institutions are unable to sell all of their breeder seeds generated in a given year, they have difficulty producing the next year. The situation has worsened due to a lack of gene banks dedicated to preserving these long-forgotten indigenous crop types. These vegetables, on the other hand, are rich in genes that are both tolerant of abiotic and resistant to biotic stimuli. Because the majority of them have become extinct, intentional efforts are undertaken to bring those kinds from outside of Ghana whenever they are required for improvement.

3.3 Absence of a functional vegetable seed system

Two main seed systems operate in Ghana namely: formal and informal (traditional) [12]. However, in certain farmer-based organizations and community seed production, a combination of these two major seed systems has been used [13]. The formal seed system, which is governed by state legislation and overseen by Research Institutes, Universities, and the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA), is controlled. By providing stakeholders with knowledge and samples to work with, these institutes reinforce the relevance of seed certification. MOFA is in charge of approximately 80% of the operations (registration of seed growers, cleaning, sorting and grading of seeds, seed inspection and certification, and packaging for sales only at the regional capitals). Bureaucracy at this level causes delays in providing services to seed firms, resulting in a loss of production. A weak distribution system exists from the stage of approved seed production to farmers, as well as annual supply failing to satisfy farmer demand. In contrast to vegetables, crops such as maize, rice sorghum, millet, peanuts, and cowpea have recently garnered increased financial focus in varietal development and release. Few crops, such as tomato, pepper, and okra, have been developed, but because of a poor seed distribution method, they have a low adoption rate [12].

3.4 Overreliance on imported seeds of common vegetables

Since only a few locally improved varieties are available for only a crop like pepper and non-existent for the other vegetables [14], vegetable growers have to rely on imported seeds for cultivation. Imported vegetable seeds are mostly available at various agro-input dealers throughout the country and mainly deal in crops such as tomato, pepper, garden eggs, and onions [15]. Since farmers in most remote communities’ lack access to agro-input dealers who sell vegetable seeds, they often fall victim to poor-quality seeds that may be obtained from uncertified sources. Variability in the timing and distribution of rainfall is also preventing farmers from purchasing certified seeds because they are frightened of accruing big debts if their crops fail completely due to bad weather [12]. In comparison, most development programs concentrate on staples like maize, cassava, and rice, with little attention paid to vegetables. The problem may also be attributed to a lack of research into our indigenous vegetables, which makes them unable to compete with already-improved imported crops, making it harder for farmers to choose and reproduce them. As a result, they are unable to exhibit their entire potential. Because of these qualities, farmers often accept exotic vegetables that have been enhanced to farmers, influencing food and nutritional security in the country.

3.5 Infrastructure challenges (irrigation and processing facilities)

Improved infrastructure in the areas of irrigation, roads, transport, processing, and storage are needed for enhanced vegetable production. About 80–90% of agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa relies on rainfall for cultivation and Ghana is no exception. The major and minor planting seasons have been erratic over the years [16]. Rainfall variability over time as a result of global warming and climate change has posed a danger to vegetable productivity and food security [17]. Crops that require less water, such as cassava and maize, can thrive during these times [16]. Vegetables, on the other hand, are succulent crops that contain around 90% water [18], necessitating a continual supply of water during their growth cycle. Vegetable production is mainly under rain-fed or irrigation depending on the season and location. Water shortages can impact the output of vegetables like tomatoes, garden eggs, and notably exotic ones like cabbage, carrot, and lettuce at any stage of their development. To facilitate access to water, most vegetables in Ghana are grown near a water source. Where available, irrigation facilities offer great opportunities for vegetable growers. However, these are not available in most countries in adequate amounts to meet the needs of farmers in all communities. According to the World Bank [19] irrigated agriculture represents only 20 percent of the total cultivated land and contributes 40 percent of the total food produced worldwide. Due to this inadequacy, most vegetable growers especially in urban and peri-urban areas use other alternative water sources for the growing of vegetables. Quansah et al. [20] reported that 70% of vegetable growers in Ghana use waste drain water for irrigation, resulting in poor microbiological quality. Another challenge of vegetable production is poor road infrastructure. The perishable nature of most of the vegetables requires that they reach the markets and consumers in time to reduce post-harvest losses. The majority of the vegetable production takes place in the rural areas characterized by poor road network infrastructure making it difficult for farmers to get their produce to the market centers. Farmers in rural areas experience high post-harvest losses due to the poor nature of the road as the middle women who buy these vegetables find it difficult to reach the farmers [21, 22]. Linked to the poor road network is the high cost of transport and inappropriate means of transport.

Lack of or low mechanization equipment needed for seedbed preparation also poses a challenge in vegetable production [23]. Manual vegetable production is labor intensive. Besides, lack of handheld or small machines affects the timely undertaking of certain activities such as weeding, pests, and diseases control. Lack of or inappropriate storage conditions contribute to post-harvest losses in vegetable production. Apart from a few supermarkets that are located in urban areas, most of the vegetables are sold in the open market where they are exposed to harsh weather conditions. The humid tropical condition in Ghana predisposes these vegetables to deterioration in storage. Such storage conditions also make it easy for insects and rodents to attack [21].

Another challenge with vegetable production is glut which occurs at peak harvest due to the fact that most farmers cultivate their vegetables at the same time when the rains set in. This simultaneous harvesting of vegetables and glut are complicated with the absence of processing facilities for these vegetables. Most processing facilities in the country are for cereals, grains, legumes, cassava, and a few vegetables with extended storage life, such as pepper. Due to a lack of storage facilities for perishable food like vegetables, seed growers are forced to sell their products at a low price in order to not incur more cost for having to dispose them off.

3.6 Contamination from abuse and misuse of agrochemicals in vegetable cultivation

In Ghana, chemical pesticides are frequently used to control pests and diseases in vegetable cultivation. According to [24], pesticides are used by 87% of vegetable producers in Ghana. However, concerns about the negative impacts of this usage on public health and the environment are increasing. Agrochemical handling and storage, application, and disposal procedures were investigated in other research, and severe abuse and misuse of agrochemicals were discovered [25]. It was discovered that certain agrochemical manufacturers do not protect their products from direct or indirect sunlight, causing them to lose their effectiveness in controlling insects or pests. Most farmers do not use the prescribed dosage of agrochemicals during application and also do not wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Over 80% of tomato growers in Ghana's northern region do not use personal protective equipment (PPE) [26]. Some farmers utilize agrochemicals that are outdated, prohibited, or unlicensed. The most significant problem occurs when farmers use agrochemicals too close to harvesting time, causing the preharvest period to be missed before the crop is harvested for sale. Some farmers dumped leftover pesticides in bodies of water, while others poured them onto their fields. Empty containers are dumped on the ground, while others are used as drinking containers [27].

Another challenge associated with vegetable production in Ghana is contaminants found on harvested produce. Heavy metals such as copper (Cu), zinc (Zn), lead (Pb), nickel (Ni), chromium (Cr), cadmium (Cd), and cobalt (Co) have been reported on some vegetables [28, 29]. These contaminants come from the use of waste water for irrigation, inappropriate use of chemical fertilizers, weedicides, pesticides, and insecticides application [28, 30]. In assessing the level of pesticide contamination on vegetables sold in markets in some selected regional capitals, [31] reports that 78% of the samples had chlorpyrifos residue on them. Non-adherence to harvest interval on the labels of these chemicals is a major cause of such chemical residues reported to be above the minimum recommended levels [29].

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4. Emerging technologies for vegetable cultivation

4.1 Nursery management technology

A nursery is a place or an establishment where seedlings of crop plants particularly vegetables and fruit trees are raised before transplanting onto the main or permanent field [32]. Nurseries are essential in vegetable production because most of the vegetable crops cannot be directly seeded in the open field. This is because most vegetable crops require special attention during their early growth which cannot be guaranteed in the open field [33]. Secondly, most vegetable crops in nature have very small seeds that make direct seeding in the field impractical. Due to the above reasons, nurseries are set up to provide favorable environmental conditions for germination and seedling growth. Additionally, nurseries offer the opportunity to provide better care for the seedlings during their early growth [34].

4.2 Characteristics of a good nursery

A good nursery is characterized by the following;

  • The soil or growth media should be well-drained;

  • There should be adequate sunlight;

  • Availability of clean water for irrigation and;

  • The nursery should be easily accessible and secure.

4.3 Types of nurseries

There are three types of nurseries in vegetable cultivation. These are the nursery bed (seed bed), seed box (containers) and the plug trays (V-type nursery) [35]. The nursery bed is the commonest method of raising seedlings at the nursery [32]. In this method, seeds of vegetable crops are nursed on either raised or sunken beds depending on the season. Raised beds are used during the rainy season to prevent waterlogging whiles sunken beds are preferred in the dry season to conserve moisture. Vegetable nurseries can also be set up in seed boxes or containers. The advantage of using seed boxes is that they can be moved to a safer place in the event of unfavorable weather conditions. The last type of nursery is the use of plug trays. The plug trays are specially designed plastic trays for raising seedlings of vegetable crops [34, 35]. With the plug tray, each seedling occupies a cell (hole) which reduces competition and ensures uniformity among the batch seedlings. They can also be used for commercial production of seedlings of vegetable crops that are not normally nursed for example the Cucurbits. This is possible because the rooting system of the seedling is not disturbed during transplanting. Plug trays come in different sizes with the different number of cells (holes). The type of tray to use depends on the vegetable crop. Vegetable crops with small-sized seedlings should be raised in trays with smaller cells while large seedlings should be raised in trays with larger cells [34].

4.4 Sterilization of growth media

To produce healthy vegetable seedlings, the growth media (soil or soilless media) should be sterilized to kill or reduce the population disease-causing pathogens. The growth media can be sterilized using heat from fire (conventional method), heat from steam, solar radiation, and chemicals (fumigants). In seed bed nurseries, the commonest method of sterilizing the soil is through heat sterilization by burning dry grass on the beds. The solarization method is mostly practiced in greenhouse nurseries. However, it can be used to sterilize the main field. In the method, the nursery bed is moistened and covered with transparent plastic sheets which allows sunlight to pass through and heat up the moistened soil. The steam sterilization method is mostly used in sterilizing growth media for seed boxes and plug tray nurseries. Chemical sterilizers (fumigants) are also used in sterilizing the nursery bed but their use is limited due to the non-availability and high cost of the fumigants.

4.5 Types of growth media

Seeds of vegetable crops can be nursed in soil or soilless media such as cocopeat (coconut husk), decarbonized rice husk, saw dust, vermiculite, perlite, peat soil [32]. Most of these soilless media do not contain plant nutrients and therefore should be mixed with well-decomposed manure or compost to supply nutrients to the seedlings.

4.6 Good nursery management practices

Irrigation or moisture management: This is very crucial at the nursery since inadequate moisture supply may cause the death of seedlings while the excess of it will create conducive conditions for the spread of diseases. Insect pest and diseases management: The use of recommended insecticides and fungicides have been the commonest method of controlling insect pests and pathogen at the nursery. Recently, the use of colored sticky pads have proven to be effective in controlling flying insects such as whiteflies and aphids at the nursery.

Weed management: Weeds are good competitors for productive resources such as water, sunlight, and nutrients, and for this reason they must be controlled at the nursery. In the case of seed beds, manual hand weeding can be done to control weeds. Pre-emergence herbicides can be used to control weeds before sowing seeds. However, care must be taken to avoid the residual effect of the herbicides on the vegetable seeds. In the case of seed boxes and plug trays, effective sterilization will kill most of the weed seeds. Hand-picking can be done to get rid of weed seeds. Pricking out: Overcrowded seedlings in seed beds and seed boxes should be pricked out to reduce competition for productive resources. Pricking out is not required in plug trays since each seedling occupies a cell. Hardening off: It is one of the most important agronomic practices at the nursery. It refers to a gradual process of exposing seedlings to conditions in the field where they will be transplanted. It involves a gradual withdrawal of water and exposure of the seedlings to sunlight with the aim of reducing transplanting shock and increasing percentage seedling survival.

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5. Protected/screenhouse vegetable cultivation

This refers to growing vegetable crops in protected structures such as polyhouses, greenhouses, net houses, shade houses, net tunnels [32]. Protected vegetable cultivation technology became necessary due to the challenges associated with vegetable cultivation in the open field [36]. The protective structures serve as a mechanical barrier to biotic stresses such as insect pests and disease-causing organisms and rodents [37]. The structures also protect the vegetables from harsh environmental conditions such as rainstorms, scorching sunlight, sandstorm, high winds, etc. These protected structures differ in the level of control or automation of the growing conditions such as temperature and relative humidity. The commonest protective structures in Ghana are net houses mostly without temperature controlling devices. The increasing demand for the use of protective structures for vegetable cultivation is the high yield and improved quality of the product obtained under protected cultivation compared to open field cultivation [37, 38]. Additionally, certain vegetable crops are vulnerable to high rainfall or windy conditions and therefore only perform better when grown under protected structures. Growing vegetables in protected structures can extend the growing season and ensure all-year-round production and supply of vegetables since climatic and growing conditions can be optimized in the protected structures [36]. Protected structures such as greenhouses can double as a commercial nursery where high-quality disease-free seedlings of vegetable crops could be produced and supplied to farmers to boost vegetable production. The production of true-to-type (genetically pure) seeds of cross-pollinated vegetable crops is challenging during the main cropping season. However, vegetable seed production in protected structures helps maintain genetic purity without worrying about isolation distances.

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6. Grafting technology

Grafting refers to the union between two plant parts (scion and rootstock) to produce a single plant [32]. it is an environmentally friendly method of controlling soil-borne pathogens and improving the yield of susceptible vegetable cultivars [39]. Grafting technology was first deployed in Asia by grafting watermelon scions onto squash rootstocks [40]. Grafting technology was developed to curb the indiscriminate use of insecticides and fungicides by farmers in vegetable cultivation. Farmers controlled biotics stress in vegetable cultivation by spraying pesticides which raised health concerns. However, the use of resistant grafted varieties offers the best solution to biotic and abiotic stresses [41]. The rootstock is usually an adapted cultivar that is tolerant or resistant to either biotic or abiotic stresses and develops into the rooting system of the grafted plant. The scion which develops into the shoot of the grafted plant is most susceptible to the biotic and abiotic stresses and is selected for its desirable fruit characteristics and quality. Grafting, therefore, offers the opportunity to combine the desirable traits of the two plants into a superior grafted plant with resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses and increased yield [42]. Grafting technology was first adopted in vegetable production to control soil-borne diseases such as Fusarium wilt in the Cucurbitaceae and Bacterial wilt in the Solanaceae families [43]. However, grafting technology has been deployed to produce drought tolerant, nematode resistant, low temperature tolerant, heavy metal tolerant, high salt-tolerant, and nutrient efficient vegetable varieties [44, 45, 46]. Notwithstanding the opportunities grafted technology offers, there are challenges associated with the technology. Some of the challenges include;

  • Grafting requires skilled personnel and is labor intensive.

  • Difficulty in the selection of compatible scion and rootstock.

  • Grafting can affect the quality of vegetable fruits.

  • Increased exposure of the grafted plants to disease infection.

  • Grafting can cause excessive vegetative growth.

  • There is an increased incidence of physiological disorders.

  • Symptoms of incompatibility may show at later stages.

  • Higher prices of grafted seedlings.

Several methods of grafting the scion onto the rootstock are available. However, the technique to use depends on the crop, size, and age of the seedling and the compatibility between the two plants [43]. A careful selection of the rootstock and scion is imperative in obtaining successfully grafted plants. Some of the techniques in grafting include cleft grafting, tube grafting, hole insertion grafting, and approach grafting [47, 48]. After grafting, the seedlings are allowed to heal and harden before being planted in the field. For successful healing, the grafted seedlings are kept in a dark place with high relative humidity. These conditions in the healing environment promote early healing and survival of the seedlings. Grafting technology has proven to be a reliable control method for biotic and abiotic stresses in vegetable cultivation and can be adopted as a control method to manage the challenges posed by these stresses to the vegetable sector in Ghana.

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7. Information technology in vegetable production in Ghana

The rapid evolution of information technology (IT) is revolutionizing agriculture in a way that appreciably reduces risks associated with vegetable cultivation. Areas of IT application include diseases and pests’ surveillance and management; soil water, irrigation, and fertility; weather alerts and forecasting; marketing; training and agricultural extension; transport and storage among others. Although great strides have been made there in some of these areas, others are still at the explorative phase and accuracy might not be as expected. For example, the accuracy of mobile applications for detecting many insect pest species are very low to be reliably used by an ordinary farmer. Plant symptoms, however, reliably give the type of group of pests and recommend good intervention. The identification of diseases with mobile phone and computer applications is more precise.

7.1 IT in climate smart vegetable production systems

Climate change resulting in a change in weather pattern from what has been established as the norm for centuries greatly influences agricultural productivity, especially vegetables. This is because the majority of vegetables are less hardy hence have less tolerance to drought and high temperatures. For this reason, the use of IT tools helps mitigate some of these adverse effects. There are a number of IT platforms that forecast the weather for specific locations. These platforms can forecast rainfall, relative humidity, temperature, ultraviolet index, wind speeds for about 2 weeks ahead of time. This weather information can assist in planning and determining the appropriate planting time over the stipulated period. The Ghana Meteorological Agency (GMet) also provides a yearly forecast for the onset of rain after the dry season, rainy months, intensity, and abatement for all the major ecological zones. With these information, farmers can schedule when to plant a particular vegetable under rain-fed conditions. Some radio stations and television stations also provide daily rainfall and temperature in the mornings or evenings. These help in daily farm schedules.

There are also automated systems for greenhouse vegetable production. Soil moisture, ambiance humidity, and temperature are remotely assessed and adjusted appropriately for optimal growth of crops. This efficiently mitigates against unpredictable climate variability, thereby facilitating vegetable production at all times.

Climate change also has the propensity of changing pests and diseases phenology [49] which may come at the blind side of the vegetable grower. Certain pest populations and diseases are known to surge at specific months of the year due to their accompanying rainfall and humidity patterns [50]. However, erratic rainfall patterns can disrupt these established times thereby shifting pests and diseases dynamics. For example, thrips and spider mites’ outbreaks in vegetables are associated with droughts [51]. On the other hand, the surge in fungal diseases such as leaf blight and anthracnose are associated with high rains [52]. Based on these premises, deductions from weather forecasts help predict what pests and diseases to expect at any stage of vegetable cultivation. This foreknowledge allows the vegetable grower to scout and implements interventions as early as possible in order to reduce crop losses and also cut down the cost of management.

7.2 Pests and diseases identification and management tools

According to [53] estimated 20–40% of global crop production is lost to pests and crop diseases cost about $220 billion. At the local level pests and diseases has the potential to cause substantial loss and in extreme cases absolute loss, depending on the type of pest or disease, tolerance level of crop variety, and stage of infestation. Traditionally, several approaches have been used to identify and manage pests and diseases. These include experiential knowledge by the farmer as the crop is cultivated over time, acquaintance with the experienced farmer, agricultural extension, and farmer-researcher interactions. The digital space now offers a novel strategy to complement these traditional strategies. There are a number of mobile phone and portable computer applications that allow vegetable growers to identify plants, diseases, and pests as well as possible management options. A user takes and uploads a close-up photo of the pest or plant with signs of pest or disease infestation. The application matches the uploaded photo with a repository for the best match. It must be emphasized that identifications by these applications are not absolute and their accuracy is still being enhanced. For some applications, however, the user has the option of manually searching after the application has automatically filtered out unlikely candidates. When there are no search matches or the user deemed the results as inaccurate, some applications further allow the photo to be forwarded to a pool of experts. Experts then give feedback when correctly identified.

Drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are gradually being used in pests, diseases, and weeds’ surveillance as well as water stress monitoring in agricultural production in recent times. Multispectral cameras attached to the drone scan the cropped field and based on color reflectance due to crop response to stress, such as pest or disease infestation, are able to identify these stresses. The advantage of this over traditional scouting is that infestation or stress can be detected way before they become visible to the naked eye. These IT systems facilitate early intervention and are also cost-effective [54, 55].

Another IT pest predictive and advisory IT platform is based on established degree-days of specific insect pests – rates of development of insects and many organisms are dictated by temperature, and require a fixed amount of heat to develop from one stage to another. This physiological development time is quantified into degree-day, and this is used to make predictions and recommend management actions [56]. This is well-patronized platform in many of the developed countries. The user key in some basic information such as type of crop, planting date, and location, and the system will generate pest management timelines to follow. In Africa, the degree-day model for pest management is being piloted on selected pests including the American tomato leaf miner (Tuta absoluta) in Kenya, Ghana, and Zambia under the Pest Risk Information SErvice (PRISE) (www.prise.org). The development of such IT tools to cover more vegetables and their associated pests will help rationalize the use of insecticides leading to minimizing residues in the produce.

7.3 Extension services

It is important in raising agricultural productivity, improving food security and nutrition as well as reducing poverty among the poor. Agricultural extension mediates these by extending research advancements and new knowledge in agriculture to end-users, particularly farmers. Although agricultural extension has been in existence in Ghana for over a century, its expected impact on vegetable production is still lagging. This is due to the high extension officer to farmer ratio, low funding, and poor farm accessibility. Vegetable production is, however, a sector that requires constant information exchange among the actors. It is also through a good extension system that new IT tools that enhance vegetable productivity can be introduced to farmers. Traditionally, extension practitioners physically interact with farmers and thus are restricted by time and space. This is where the e-agricultural system, which is more versatile is very helpful. E-extensions involve using the power of online networks, computer communications, and digital interactive multi-media to facilitate the dissemination of agricultural technology. There are a number of tools and techniques available for e-extension and they include personal computers/laptops, mobile phones, USSD technologies, call centers, Twitter interactive white boards, Facebook, WhatsApp, interactive voice response systems, TV, radio, SMS, etc. The current wide usage of mobile phones has made it the most preferred medium for the transfer of new agricultural technology to farmers. Through WhatsApp groups, for instance, an extension officer can connect with several farmers and other value chain actors for the exchange of information.

Scientific Animation Without Borders (SAWBO) is a digital animation platform that uses animation in addressing constraints and teaching good agricultural practices. It allows experts to design video animation to address a defined constraint, including pests and diseases. It can also be designed to target a specific audience, and thus audio could be in any dialect (https://sawbo-animations.org). SAWBO is a handy IT platform for the easy delivery of agricultural extension services to vegetable producers.

7.4 Postharvest handling technologies of vegetables

Majority of vegetables physically deteriorates quickly after harvesting due to the inherent rapid breakdown of tissues, physiological changes such as respiration, transpiration, etc. Good postharvest management practices and facilities are required to increase the shelf life of vegetables. Facilities such as harvesting and collection tools, containers and packing, rapid and cold chain transportation, and commercial storage are key to a successful vegetable postharvest value chain. Some companies are leveraging on IT solutions to address some of these postharvest management nodes such as offering cold transportation and storage for a network of farmers (Table 1).

IT platform/service providerAvailable servicesIT services formatsLink
AcquahMeyer Drone TechAgricultural drone services for pests & diseases managementhttps://amdronetech.com
Digital Agricultural Innovation Hub (DAIH)4-in-1 portals/hubs on marketing, extension, scientific article repository and technological repositoryMobile App (Agritech Advisor), web portalhttp://technologies.csirgh.com , http://csirspace.csirgh.com , http://kuafo.csirgh.com , http://agritech.csirgh.com
AgrosealCommodity trading/marketing and training for smallholder farmersWeb portalhttps://agroseal.com
AgroCentaMarketing, produce transportationIVR, SMShttps://agrocenta.com
CABI PlantwiseE-resources and MoFA extension staff field visitsMobile app, Web portal, plant doctor services in collaboration with MoFAhttps://plantwise.org
CRI TVDissemination of CSIR developed agro packagesWeb portal, online TV channelhttps://critivgh.com
Complete FarmerCrowd farming, MarketingIoThttps://completefarmer.com
Coologi-Green TechCold storagehttps://coologi.com
CSIR Soil InformationSoil profile data (physical, chemical, suitability, fertility) for all locations in GhanaWeb portalwww.csirsoilinfo.org
DigiExtRemote sensing/drone for pest & disease management, marketing, agric machinery rentalsSMS, call servicehttps://digiext.com
ESOKOVodafone farmer’s club: farming advice, weather updates, market price and free calls between members (only Club’s dedicated Vodafone SIM); data collection & digitization; biometric profiling; analyticsCall center, Interactive Voice Response System (IVR)https://esoko.com
FarmerlineInput distribution, farmer training, weather updates, and market pricesSMS, Android, voice messaginghttps://farmerline.co
FarmCapProvides access to land, funds, agro inputs, weather & farm dataIoT, Web portalhttps://farmcap.co
Farm CurePest surveillance & managementMobile app, web portalhttps://farmcuregh.com
FarmklassSolar irrigationWeb portalhttps://farmklass.com
GhalaniAgro data management tool such as costs & revenueMobile app, web portalhttps://ghalani.com
KaraAgro AIDiseases, pests, nutrient & water deficiency diagnosis and managementMobile app, web portal, drone serviceshttps://karaagro.com
Khalmax RoboticsRobots for automation of farming activities, trainingWeb portalhttps://khalmaxsoftwaresystems.com
KwidexCrowdfunding for agro projectsWeb portalhttps://kwidex.com
Ministry of Food and Agriculture E-agricultureUp-to-date information on crop and animal production, market prices, farm management techniques and practices, and traceability in the Ghanaian agricultureFarmer audio library/IVR, E-field extension where officer collects field data for upload (toll-free 1848 and 30037), E-learning and resource centerhttps://e-agriculture.gov.gh
Okuafo FoundationDiseases surveillance, identification, and managementMobile apphttps://okuafofoundation.org
QualiTraceAgro input & produce tracing and anti-counterfeitingMobile apphttps://qualitracegh.com
TechsheltaGreenhouse automation & management, marketing, trainingWeb portal, IoThttps://techshelta.com
TrusteeFarmAgro produce traceability, marketingBlockchain, QR/USSD codes)https://trusteefarm.com
Trotro TractorConnect farmers to tractor operatorsSMS, Web portalhttps://trotrotractor.com

Table 1.

Information technology agricultural platforms available to vegetable growers in Ghana.

High temperatures and sometimes low humidity in the markets hasten the deterioration of vegetables. Some tropical countries have successfully used low-cost zero-energy cool chambers for temporary storage, pending sales, to prolong the shelf life of vegetables [58]. Piloting this technology in the traditional vegetable markets should be considered.

7.5 Digital marketing and use of social media to enhance the visibility of vegetable producers

Digital marketing, according to [59] is the use of the internet, mobile devices, social media, search engines, and other channels to reach consumers. It is considered a new means of marketing products and services through understanding and keeping abreast of customer behavior, which tends to be different from traditional marketing. Digital marketing is generally interactive and customers can give feedbacks. Customers are attracted via email, content marketing, search platforms, social media among others. The focus here is social media since little skills are required, cheap, and easy to use, which is more likely to be easily acceptable to the majority of Ghanaian or African farmers.

Many social media users in Ghana and many countries in sub-Saharan Africa tend to focus on the entertainment aspect of these powerful electronic tool. Statuses of millions of users on Facebook, WhatsApp, Snapchat, etc. are flooded with funny media, selfies, and all manner of commentaries. Considering that there are about 2.5 million agricultural households in Ghana with a population of 11.3 million and 55% mobile phone adoption, leveraging on social media can improve productivity along the agricultural value chain. In terms of marketing in the food chain, only the fast-food subsector has taken advantage of social media in marketing their products, especially in the urban areas. However, vegetable sales and consumption are steadily increasing because many people are actively increasing vegetable proportion in their diet because of their health benefits. This means the vegetable supply chain covering agro-input selling, labor services, transportation, and marketing needs to explore social media. This could be simple advertisements on Facebook wall, Instagram, statuses of other social media handles, and more importantly social media group platforms, which come at practically no cost. Social media group platforms such as that of the old school, church, clubs, etc. may have celebrities or influential persons. These personalities may agree to freely share advertisements on their private social media handles to catch the attention of their huge followers. The pay services by these social media outlets are also available to market vegetables.

Many consumers are skeptical about sources of vegetables consumed because of practices such as the misapplication of pesticides and the use of contaminated water. To allay fears of consumers, vegetable producers can set themselves apart by following the best practices outlined in this book and making short videos of their production practices. These videos could be shared on YouTube, Facebook, WhatsApp, etc. Agro input (seeds and fertilizer) tracking to authenticate their genuineness, effectiveness with the aid of IT is provided by some IT companies. Similar tracking of source and production information of agro produce is also available (Table 1). These give credibility and consumer satisfaction to the agro produce, giving it an edge over others. The national e-agriculture and other private IT platforms that vegetable growers can benefit from are listed in Table 1.

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8. Advancement of technologies in vegetable production in Ghana

This section gives a description of advancement technologies in vegetable production in Ghana based on genetic improvement, soil fertility improvement, Irrigation as well as pest and diseases management practices. It also shows the characteristics of research and farmers’ involvement in advanced technologies in vegetable production.

8.1 Genetic improvement

Crop genetic improvement target is by using diversity collections to identify new genes and gene combinations that can be introduced into crops, in a natural way using conventional breeding techniques without using Genetic Modification. It aims at increasing the frequency of desirable genes and decreasing the frequency of undesirable genes in a human perspective. Vegetables are a key component of every meal in Ghanaian and significantly contribute to improving the livelihood of its growers. In spite of the significance of vegetables in Ghana, past breeding programs have been disorganized and few developments of new varieties that meet the needs of consumers as well as environmental stresses have been done. Also, there has been advancement in a few vegetables such as tomatoes, garden eggs, Okra, and peppers. Generally, there are advances in areas of vegetable production constraints in Ghana, which mainly focused on the collection, evaluation, and screening of germplasm against biotic and abiotic stresses as well as morphological and agronomic characterization. The established variability and the outcomes of the evaluations against the various biotic and abiotic stresses have not been fully utilized in the development of new varieties.

8.2 Soil fertility improvement

Soil fertility constraints to crop production are now recognized as the major obstacles to food security and agro-ecosystem sustainability in Sub-Saharan Africa of which Ghana cannot be excluded [60]. There is therefore the need for improvement in soil organic matter for sustainable cropping. Fallowing is the oldest method of restoring soil fertility and productivity in traditional cropping systems. The longer the fallow period, the higher the level of fertility generated. However, population pressure and land fragmentation have led to a shortening of the fallow periods in several parts of the country [61]. According to [62], farmers fallowed farmlands for 1–3 years and only about 12.3% of the farmers maintain some fallow with the fallow duration skewed towards the lower limit of 1–2 years. However, due to the rapid growth of population, there is a scarcity of cultivated land for this practice. Currently, the use of both organic and inorganic fertilizers is generally adopted by vegetable farmers’ during production. However, conservation agriculture has been one of the techniques introduced to help mitigate depletion of soil nutrients, conserve water, minimize soil erosion, reduce land degradation and boost farm productivity [63]. Fundamentally, Conservation agriculture includes minimum tillage, crop rotation, and organic soil cover [64]. Minimum tillage decreases the risk of land degradation and retains the soil structure by reducing the intensity of soil disturbance and this has been adapted by many vegetable growers in Ghana. [62] Indicated that the adoption of sustainable agricultural technologies remains the route through which developing nations could combat poverty and attain food security.

8.3 Irrigation

Ghanaian farmers traditionally rely on rainfed cultivation to grow their crops. However, between the 1960s and the year 1980, growth of irrigation started and a total of approximately 19,000 ha of irrigated land had been developed and in 2007 the area in irrigation had expanded to 33,800 ha. Irrigation systems observed in Ghana are mainly initiated and developed by the Ghanaian government or various nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and emerging systems, which are initiated and developed by private entrepreneurs and farmers. Ghana Irrigation Development Authority (GIDA), controlled by the Ministry of Food and Agriculture manages irritation and is the only public organization connected directly to irrigation development and management in the country. GIDA has developed 22 irrigation project districts of varying sizes covering a total area of 8,800 ha across the country. Since its establishment, GIDA has developed and managed public irrigation systems utilizing government subsidies, and public funds to cover staff costs. As part of structural adjustment, GIDA’s budget was dramatically reduced and that resulted in difficulties in managing all the 22 public irrigation districts sustainably [65]. However, in order to maintain irrigation activities, a “Participatory Irrigation Management (PIM)” was introduced, whereby beneficiary farmers and others could manage the irrigation facilities during their vegetable and other crop production. Generally, the watering cans, buckets, motorized pumps with hosepipe, surface, and sprinkler irrigation methods, are mostly being used by farmers in the vegetable production areas in the country [7, 66]

8.4 Organic farming technology

The Ghana Government accepts the premise that national food security can only be realized through the wide-scale introduction of modern commercial agriculture and that such modernization will spearhead the development of the economy [67]. Health concerns with respect to vegetable production have meant that organic farming is gaining popularity in many countries, including Ghana. The factors influencing the adoption of organic vegetable technology in the country are based on extension contacts and farmers’ engagement in training workshops, formation of farmer-based organizations (FBO), and farming experience over the past years. Organic vegetable farming can be used as a strategy to improve food production and reduce poverty in the country.

8.5 Pest management

The advent of synthetic insecticides revolutionized how insect pests were managed through a leap from suppression to “kill them all”. Increasing reports of insect pests building resistance to these insecticides prompted the adoption and promotion of all available management measures through careful planning. These complementary options include natural enemies, microbials, botanicals, cultural practices, and synthetic insecticides. Similarly, the management of diseases solely based on synthetic chemicals has shifted to the adoption of complementary approaches. Thus, current pests and diseases management strategies involve the adoption of a multifaceted approach; integrated management. The high vulnerability of vegetables to pests and diseases makes this aspect of the production very critical. For this reason, developing new complementary pests and diseases management technologies is crucial for the sustainable yield of vegetables. Some of these technologies accessible to the Ghanaian vegetable farmer are discussed below:

Microbial pesticides: They contain one or more microorganisms (e.g., fungus, bacterium, virus, nematode, or protozoan) as active ingredients. They may be target-specific or broad-spectrum and tend to be environmentally friendly since they are naturally occurring. Common microbial pesticide formulations available for vegetables include Bacillus thuringiensis, Metarhizium anisopliae, Beauveria bassiana. Plant-incorporated protectants which involve incorporating genetic material into a plant (i.e. Genetically Modified Organism) to offer insecticidal property are not yet approved for use in Ghana.

Botanical pesticides: A number of plants-derived products have exhibited insecticidal activity against a number of pests of vegetables. The most popular are the neem products with Azadirachtin as the active ingredients. [68] Provided an exhaustive list of plants with insecticidal properties, including those suitable for vegetables.

Natural enemies:Pests are normally perceived by many as inimical organisms that just increase in number without any natural check. On the contrary, pests are not completely immune from the adverse effects of other animals. There are a good number of animals, predators and parasitoids, that attack and kill pests in every vegetable production system. Predators seize and kill pests while parasitoids normally inoculate their immature forms into different developmental stages (eggs, larvae, pupae, or adult) of pests. All these help suppress pest populations below the economic threshold to maintain a balanced production system. Although naturally, pest populations may surge up irrespective of the natural enemies, anthropogenic disturbances such as the use of synthetic insecticides, monocropping, etc. are the main sources of pest outbreaks. Strategies to boost natural enemy populations and their attendant services include intercropping, mixed cropping, crop rotation, and leaving strips of flowering or natural vegetation along boundaries of vegetable fields.

Pheromone lures: This employs the use of pests’ own chemical communication against them. The most commonly communication chemicals used in agriculture are sex pheromones. Although a wide array has been developed, particularly for monitoring and decision making, only a few are available in Ghana. The common pheromone lures for vegetables in Ghana, mostly used at the research level are that of a tomato leaf miner (Tuta absoluta) and diamondback moth for tomato and cabbage respectively. Nevertheless, there is a great prospect for mass adoption.

Sticky traps:These are color, mainly yellow, flexible plastic cards with the sticky surface to trap flight-capable insect pests. They are relatively costly since they are scarce locally. However, homemade sticky traps can easily be created by cutting yellow plastic strips (10 × 25cm) smeared with grease or petroleum jelly. Traps are hung on a pole just above the height of the crop. Traps can be reused by scrapping off trapped insects when the surface is almost filled up. A number of the above strategies can be combined to suppress pests in vegetables, and the inclusion of synthetic insecticides is always considered as the last resort.

8.6 Diseases management

Many vegetables are prone to diseases and their impact on production can be dire. Causative agents of diseases range from fungi, bacteria, and viruses. Understanding of disease triangle which consists of the host, the pathogen, and the environmental condition is important in managing these problems. A break in the link of the triangle truncates the perpetuation of the disease [69]. Thus, effective management of diseases in vegetables involves the use of disease-free seeds and varieties that are tolerant/resistant to the major diseases that are prevalent in the production enclave. Although general climatic factors are beyond the control of the vegetable grower, a micro climate that reduces the survival of the causative pathogen can be provided. An example is using well-drained soil and avoiding weed growth on the cropped field. In situations where a vector is involved in the transmission of the disease, it is important to manage the pest. A typical example is white flies, which transmit viral diseases.

Other intervention, which has also become popular among growers is the use of pesticides such as fungicides, bactericides, etc. These may be applied as preventative or curative depending on the active ingredient and thus the time of application is very crucial.

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9. Contribution/prospects of vegetable production to food and nutrition security in Ghana

In Ghana, the promotion of food security has been centered on starch-based staple crops such as maize, rice, cassava, yam, sweet potato, plantain, etc. which are mainly dietary sources of energy. However, in recent times, the introduction and addition of the term “nutrition security” has reshaped the concept and created awareness on the dietary importance of vegetables [70]. Intake of a diverse range of food categories in the right proportions is required for a healthy living. Food and nutrition security can, therefore, never be achieved without realizing and acknowledging the roles of vegetables in our diets. Their rich source of water, protein, minerals, vitamins, and other important phytochemicals champions the need for dietary diversity for good health, protecting us from heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes [71]. Thus, vegetable intake is one of the affordable approaches to achieve both food and nutrition security.

In Ghana, the vegetable sector has recently recorded a spike in production [72] and consumption [73] of both indigenous and exotic vegetable crops. This typically shows the roles of vegetable production in improving the livelihoods of people involved in its value chain. It creates important economic opportunities for smallholder farmers particularly in the rural communities as well as fragmented areas in urban and peri-urban and thus, offering opportunities for poverty reduction [19]. It is worth noting that, income generated from the vegetable sales helps these farmers to purchase other foodstuffs which are equally important in achieving a healthy diet. Farmers can explore and adopt a mixed cropping system, thereby, integrating vegetable crops into the cultivation of the major staple crops or shifting to solely vegetable production to maintain economic or financial stability [70]. Vegetable production may offer a profitable business opportunity. The recent introduction of vegetable production under controlled environments such as greenhouses has improved the availability of vegetables as a result of year-round production, as well as the quality. Although the initial cost of production is high, farmers who go into greenhouse production with good management practices and associated high yields increase their returns per unit area of production compared with those into open-field production [74]. This system has offered an alternative attractive source of employments for the youths who previously disregarded farming. For instance, graduates with engineering backgrounds can explore areas such as design, construction, and installation of greenhouses and accessories. Others with pre-requisite training in greenhouse vegetable production can take managerial roles. In addition, vegetable production offers huge cash income for market-oriented vegetable farmers particularly women who are the largest group of beneficiaries. There is also a huge opportunity in the export of vegetables. The greenhouse cultivation offers this opportunity to farmers to enable them to meet the strict export requirements of vegetables and leverage to maximize the profit margin of the farmers as well as foreign exchange for the economic growth of the country. Production of vegetables under greenhouse conditions limits and/or avoids the uncontrolled use of agrochemicals which pose serious threats to food safety and security [75]. The vegetable production under controlled conditions has contributed to introducing the new scope of research and teaching in the tertiary levels. For instance, some universities have already revised their course contents or curriculum and mounted an entire course and program at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. This is the surest way of promoting sustainable vegetable production and the indirect approach of ensuring sustainable food and nutrition security. Thus, students who successfully attain training in diverse areas in vegetable production become the main actors in the vegetable value chains such as the vegetable farmers, managers, exporters, policymakers, and researchers, etc.

Moreover, vegetable production could serve as a feedstock for various industrial productions. Unfortunately, the opportunities associated with vegetable production have not been utilized adequately. There are so many recipes of vegetable juices that can be developed and commercialized in Ghana as done in developed countries. Improved processing and packaging with excellent hygienic conditions will ease in preparation and consumption of vegetables. Vegetables such as cabbage, lettuce, carrots, spring onions can be chopped and packaged and made available in groceries. Industrialized vegetable production, processing, and marketing could offer huge employment opportunities to the youth. In addition, this will eventually promote vegetable availability, accessibility, and utilization thereby contributing to food and nutrition security.

In Ghana, there are underutilized vegetable species such as Turkey berries (Solanum torvum) which are being used for the preparation of local delicacies as well as medicinal purposes, especially in rural and peri-urban areas. Such vegetables may be rich in essential secondary metabolites which could be harnessed to promote daily consumption thereby addressing or improving food and nutrition security [76]. However, there is little, or no research works on these vegetables which are growing distinct whiles others are scattered in various localities and highly exposed/endangered to destruction by mechanical weeding, herbicide applications, and pest infestations. Therefore, considering their nutritional and medicinal properties, these underutilized vegetables could be scientifically explored and promoted to improve the livelihoods of the local dwellers using them as food or medicines [76, 77]. In addition, advanced research could lead to the commercialization and industrialization of these vegetable crops contributing to various economic benefits.

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10. Conclusion

The chapter looked at state-of-the-art technologies in vegetable production, the trends, and the challenges associated with the production. It discussed the types of vegetables and the emerging technologies for vegetable production in Ghana. It also describes advanced technologies in vegetable production in Ghana based on genetic improvement, soil fertility improvement, irrigation as well as pest and diseases management practices. Production is characterized by the use of manual labor for most farm activities though recently some farmers who have larger farms are incorporating some level of mechanization. Cultivation is often under rainfed system which only allows for production within two seasons or one season of the year depending on the location of the farm within the country. Over-reliance on rainfall for vegetable production and the erratic nature of rainfall patterns in recent years due to climate change results in poor yield. Small scale production is not sufficient to prevent the shortage of particular vegetables during certain times of the year. Overcoming the over-dependence of agriculture on rain has led to the development of irrigation sites to enable off-season or nearly all-year-round cultivation of vegetables.

Challenges associated with vegetable production in Ghana include a limited number of varieties due to the extinction of local varieties. Lack of a functional vegetable seed system unlike other crops affects the availability of quality seeds. Overreliance on imported seeds of common vegetables is attributed to a lack of research into the indigenous vegetables. Infrastructure challenges especially irrigation and processing facilities, and poor roads hinder the growth of the sector. The perishable nature of most vegetables requires that they reach the markets and consumers in time to reduce post-harvest losses. Contamination from abuse and misuse of agrochemicals in vegetable cultivation is another challenge associated with vegetable production in Ghana. Emerging technologies for vegetable cultivation include nursery management technology for example sterilization of growth media and grafting technology, use of protected/screenhouse in vegetable cultivation. Another is the use of information technology in vegetable production in Ghana. The rapid evolution of information technology in climate-smart vegetable production systems, drone or an unmanned aerial vehicle is gradually being used in pests and diseases and weeds surveillance. Digital marketing and the use of social media to enhance the visibility of vegetable producers and postharvest handling technologies of vegetables are also gathering momentum. It is obvious from this chapter that, abundant agro-techniques exist that have the potential to transform Ghana’s vegetable industry. However, the proper transformational mechanisms and enabling environment should also be created for the adoption of these technologies. Technology is a vehicle for rapid development; therefore, improved technologies tailored for agriculture must be harnessed appropriately. This will not only ensure food security but will go a long way to improve the livelihood of smallholder farmers who have embraced vegetable production as their mainstay of life.

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Written By

Michael Kwabena Osei, Peter Amoako Ofori, Joseph Adjebeng-Danquah, Stella Owusu Nketia, Kofi Frimpong-Anin, Isaac Osei-Bonsu, Richard Yaw Agyare, Jacinta Opoku-Adoma, Patrick Ofori, Emmanuel Asamoah Adjei, Isaac Newton, Joseph Gyau and Doris Puozaa

Submitted: November 13th, 2021 Reviewed: December 3rd, 2021 Published: April 20th, 2022