Four areas in St. James hit by MOKO


Inspections being carried out by the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) and the Banana Board have identified to date, a total of eight hectares (20 acres) of bananas in four areas of St. James that are infected with the devastating Moko disease.
The inspections continue, while the government is moving rapidly to prevent the spread of the disease to unaffected banana growing areas in the island. Phillip Chung, Senior Plant Protection Officer with RADA, and member of the task force put in place to manage the disease, said that infected fields had been identified in George’s Valley, Silver Grove, Phoenix Road, Vaughnsfield and the Montpellier areas of the parish.
He said that a plan had been put in place to destroy the infected fields, so as to prevent the spread of the disease. He reported that approximately 75 per cent of those fields had already been treated for destruction.
“The way it is destroyed is that a Herbicide, a systemic Herbicide, is injected into the plant and this spreads throughout the plant and kills the tissues, and over a period of about six to eight weeks the plant will die. The weeds in the field are also sprayed with this Herbicide, because many weeds can host the bacteria,” he said.
Mr. Chung told JIS News that plots of land where infected crops had been destroyed could be used for replanting other crops.
He further explained that the supportive crops would assist in reducing the levels of bacteria in the fields and gradually destroy them.
The Senior Plant Protection Officer also advised that the disease did not affect humans. He pointed out also that because of the ease with which the disease could spread from plant to plant, field to field and from one area to the next, the infected fields were presently quarantined.
“When the disease affects the fruit, you normally see a discoloration inside, so most people will not eat those fruits, but it is safe for humans to eat, it will not kill you, it will not harm you. But, for the fields that have been infected, no fruits or any other plant material or soil is supposed to come out of those fields.
Those fields are strictly quarantined because we do not want to risk the disease moving from those fields to elsewhere,” he said.
Mr. Chung disclosed that an islandwide survey would be done shortly to determine if the disease had affected other areas. Agricultural extension officers, who are presently undergoing special training sessions to assist in identifying the disease, will carry out the survey.
The Plant Protection Officer said that infected plant showed several symptoms on the leaves, in the Pseudo-stem or trunk of the plant, on the flowers and the fruits. On the leaves one will see yellowing, with the leaves not opening properly or showing deformity, while the fruits will show darkening, rotted areas or deformity.
Green or ripe infected fruits will also show dark areas on the inside when cut, while the flowers of infected plants will shrivel.

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