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Maria Young Senior, Plant Health Officer for the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), has said that the Ministry of Agriculture is fully committed to putting in place the necessary management structures to rid the island of the Pink Hibiscus Mealy Bug.
Mrs. Young, who was addressing a seminar hosted by the Port Antonio office of RADA recently at the Portland Parish Library, noted that the control strategy being employed is designed to keep the bug population low and prevent the parasitic pest from posing a major threat to agricultural production anywhere in the country.
She assured that the extent of the damage the bug has been causing will significantly decrease as the measures being used to halt its spread take effect, which include the release of parasitoid wasps in the infested areas, and a public education campaign to increase awareness about the danger of the bug and measures to control its spread.
The Pink Hibiscus Mealy Bug, which was first detected in the Manchioneal agricultural extension area of Portland in June, has the capacity to wreak havoc on the agricultural sector by destroying crops.
Among the plants at risk are hibiscus, allamanda, acalypha, papaya, sweet sop, ixora, citrus and poinsettia. The areas of Portland infested with the bug are Commodore, Islington, Castle, Castle, Windsor Forest, Fair Prospect and Port Antonio.
Mrs. Young noted that while there are many species of the Mealy Mug present in Jamaica, this is the first time that the Pink Hibiscus species is being detected in the country. The Hibiscus species of the bug, she said, is more destructive, because of the poisonous saliva which it deposits into plants on which it feeds.
In imploring the residents of the infested communities to co-operate with the Ministry of Agriculture to control the spread of the pest, the RADA officer also urged them not to collect plant material at this time, as that practice may help to defeat the measures being implemented to fight the spread of the bug.
Michelle Sherwood, Senior Plant Protection Officer at the Bodles Agricultural Research Station in St. Catherine, who gave a detailed description of the destructive characteristics of the Pink Hibiscus Mealy Bug, pointed out that there are approximately 200 species of plants worldwide that are affected by the pest.
She said that the bug is very light and can be easily blown in the air, making it very important for residents of the infested communities to ensure that they do not transport the bug on their clothing.
The seminar was attended by a wide cross section of persons including teachers, students, community leaders and the representatives of several organizations in the parish.