Importance of Biodiversity Highlighted


This year’s World Food Day activities will serve to strengthen the Ministry of Agriculture’s ongoing public education campaign about the critical importance of biodiversity in ensuring adequate supplies of high-quality food for future generations.
Acting Chief Technical Officer in the Ministry, Don McGlashan made this observation at the official launch of World Food Day 2004 (October 16), at the Ministry’s Old Hope Road offices today (October 4).
He explained that the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) had chosen to focus this year on the theme, ‘Biodiversity for Food Security’, since in the last few decades there had been a steady increase in the extinction rate of many plants and animals as well as in habitat loss.
“The result is that agricultural production is being adversely affected, as evidenced by a marked reduction in the availability of high-quality cultivated plants and domesticated animals in many parts of the world,” he added.
Mr. McGlashan, who deputized for State Minister, Errol Ennis said however, that the Ministry recognized the critical role that scientific research played in safeguarding biodiversity and food security, and as such, its research and development division was conducting research to increase a number of crop varieties.
One notable instance of success in this area, he pointed out, was the recent launch of a new pumpkin variety, the Bodles Globe, which is high-yielding, uniformly shaped and rich in flavour.
Also, research was in progress at the Division’s Top Mountain sub-station to determine the best agronomic practices for a number of exotic fruit tree crops, including lychee, blackberry and strawberry. “We have already harvested from both crops and we are looking towards expanding blackberry production to meet the ready demand for this fruit,” Mr. McGlashan informed.
He further said that the Division’s activities to develop new plant varieties promoted crop diversity and in the process, was encouraging resistance to a number of harmful pests and diseases in the country’s food supply. To date, the main successes have been in pepper breeding, to develop a species of scotch bonnet, resistant to selected viruses; and in the production of tomato varieties that are resistant to the ‘jherricurl virus’.
In addition, in light of the devastating ringspot disease, which stunts the growth of papaya trees and reduces the quality and flavour of the fruit, the Division was also conducting research to determine the best conditions for growing the Solo and Maradol Roja varieties of papaya, at its Orange River Sub-station.
Mr. McGlashan said efforts at plant conservation had also prompted the Division to collaborate with a number of agencies, including the Scientific Research Council and the University of the West Indies, to establish a germplasm bank for a number of herbs, spices and medicinal plants.
The Ministry also continues to implement an integrated pest management strategy (IPM) to preserve predatory and parasitic organisms, which assist in the control of certain deadly pests. Meanwhile, the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), through its 14 parish offices, has also been educating farmers about the need to minimize environmental risks by adopting a sustainable approach to farming.
The Forestry Department has also been managing the country’s forest reserves to maintain soil, water resources and biological diversity through tree planting programmes; seedling production; and data collection, including the maintenance of a biophysical inventory of the Buff Bay/Pencar and Rio Minho watersheds, the Dolphin Head Mountains area, the Cockpit Country and the swamp forests in the upper and lower Black River morass as well as in the Negril Morass.
Activities to mark World Food Day include a national church service to be held on Saturday, October 16 at Kencot Seventh Day Adventist Church in Kingston; and a work day and an awards presentation on Thursday, October 21 at the William Knibb High School in Falmouth, Trelawny. These events will feature a tree-planting exercise; the presentation of three FAO medals of appreciation, and the award of winners in the school farm backyard gardening, poster design and clean beach competitions.

JIS Social