RADA Working to Protect Domestic Agriculture by Reducing Pest Infestation


The advent of globalisation and increased trade liberalisation have freed up international borders making it easier for countries to export their goods and services to anywhere in the world.
But with the increase in trade comes the threat of pests being transmitted from one country to another and causing harm to agricultural production.
The Rural Agricultural Development Authority’s (RADA) through its pest surveillance and monitoring programme, has the challenge of intercepting these pests and destroying them before they can enter the island and threaten domestic agriculture.
Phillip Chung, RADA’s senior plant protection specialist, tells JIS News that the first line of defence is quarantining plants and monitoring imports for exotic pests.
The main pests that RADA is on the lookout for are, the Mediterranean fruit fly, the papaya mealy bug and the pink hibiscus mealy bug.
RADA has implemented a programme to trap the Mediterranean fruit fly, which includes placing snares where imported fruits come in and are stored. If the fly comes in on the imported fruit, they will be caught in the traps, which are serviced every two weeks.
A similar programme has been put in place to contain the papaya mealy bug, with RADA extension officers also checking papaya holdings for signs of the pest.
In relation to surveillance for the pink hibiscus mealy bug, Mr. Chung informs JIS News that RADA has implemented a public awareness programme to sensitise persons about the disease and for them to contact RADA if they see the pest. Posters, as well as radio and television advertisements, are also used to transmit the message.
In addition, Jamaicans have been advised not to bring plants or fruits from the Eastern Caribbean, Tropical Africa, South East Asia or Northern Australia into the island.
While efforts are being made to curtail the importation of pests, RADA has also put measures in place to prevent bugs already in the island from being spread from parish to parish and farm to farm.
The papaya ring spot virus is an example of a pest that is in the island but is not widely distributed. The bug has been confined to the eastern end of the island and RADA has managed to keep it that way, by among other things, obtaining a ministerial order, prohibiting the movement of papaya seedlings, the most common carrier of the virus, from one area to another.
Additionally, Mr. Chung informs, an “early roguing” programme has been put in place, whereby on detection of the disease, plants are immediately uprooted and destroyed.
Another local pest is the hot pepper gall midge, which is present in the fruit, stalk and flower of hot pepper. This insect is a quarantine pest in the United States and so RADA has to work assiduously to ensure that it is not found in exports to that country.
To control this pest, RADA advises farmers to spray the young hot peppers with insecticide to kill the insect’s larvae before they can mature and affect the fruit. In addition, growers are encouraged to remove all fruit from the trees as soon as they mature. If the fruit falls on the ground, it must not be used but be buried or burnt, and after a field has been reaped, the field must be destroyed, thus eliminating all traces of the insect.
RADA also employs a traceability programme whereby extension officers visit farms in areas where the disease has been detected, to advise farmers of what to do to contain the pest.
Mr. Chung says that his organisation’s monitoring programme has been fairly successful, has not only managed to prevent bugs from coming into the island, but has reduced the spread of local pests.
He concedes however, that more effort was needed to reduce the movement of papaya seedlings to contain the ring spot disease.
Regarding the hot pepper gall midge, Mr. Chung states that research continues on finding means of containing this pest, because use of pesticides to kill the insect lowers the shelf life of the hot pepper.
RADA was launched in June 1990 with the mission of promoting agricultural production in rural communities, providing technical, marketing, and financial facilities and necessary social services, to improve the quality of life of farm families.

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