Pests may soon be of little or no concern to farmers in Hall Head, Danvers Pen, St. Thomas, as they have been introduced to an environmentally friendly insecticide to keep insects away from vegetable crops produced for local and overseas markets.
A training day for the farmers was organized by the St. Thomas office of the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) in collaboration with the Danvers Pen Vegetables Growers’ Association and the St. Jago Farm Supplies in St. Catherine.
The biological insecticide, Neem-X, which is compatible with integrated pest management programmes, was introduced to the farmers by personnel from the St. Jago Farm Supplies. Neem-X is extracted from the seeds of the Neem Tree, which belongs to the Meliaceae family. It originates from India where it is considered to be a very important medicinal plant.
Neem-X effectively controls over 131 species of insect pests such as leaf miners, nematodes, mealy bugs, aphids, whiteflies, caterpillars, fruit flies, paddy bug, plant hoppers among others that infest vegetables, fruits and ornamental crops.
Managing Director of St. Jago Farm Supplies, O’Brien Johnson advised the farmers to use pesticides that were recommended by RADA and safe on crops for export markets. He said the Neem-X was safe to use and could be applied to the crop on the day of harvesting because “there is no residual effect.” According to Mr. Johnson, the product has an anti-feedant property, which disrupts the ability of insect pests to grow and reproduce.
“Even if the insects do lay, they lay sterile eggs, therefore, your insect population would be less,” he added. Mr. Johnson noted that even though the insecticide disrupts the reproduction of insect pests, it would not harm friendly insects such as lady bird beetles, wasps, bees and spiders, which were beneficial to plants.
He encouraged the farmers to increase their level of efficiency and production so that they could compete in the global market. “You have to try and keep in business and the only way that you will keep in business is if you’re making money,” he said.
Currently there are some 20 farmers in the Hall Head district growing about 6.07 hectares (15 acres) of scotch bonett pepper and bitter melon (fuga) on a 16.18 hectares (40-acre) plot belonging to the Danvers Pen Vegetables Growers Association. Eastern Jamaica Agricultural Support project had assisted the group with irrigation equipment to irrigate the land.
RADA Field Officer for the Danvers Pen district, Dwight Forrester told JIS news that insects called aphids has been affecting the crops causing them to develop a disease called sothymould. He said that farmers had been using two fungicides, ‘Top Cop’ and ‘Pegasus,’ which had controlled the disease “to about 60 per cent.”
“We work in collaboration with the exporter and the farmer to ensure that at the end of the day the crop is in good condition,” he said.