JIS News

The Ministry of Agriculture is reporting that it is working to control the spread of the Red Palm Mite, which was discovered in April 2007.
The pest affects a number of plants, including coconut, bananas and Heliconias. At present, the mite is confined to the parishes of St. Thomas and St. Catherine and can be transferred to other parishes by wind.
In an interview with JIS News, Acting Senior Research Director for Plant Protection in the Ministry, Dr. Lisa Myers pointed out that the division and the Coconut Industry Board have already devised and implemented a fumigation treatment for seed nuts, which are exported to Florida. This fumigation exercise, she noted, is on-going.
Additionally, she explained that the Research and Development Division and its Plant Protection Officers are currently in the process of evaluating environmentally friendly chemicals and approaches to managing the mite.
A predator, the Amblyseius sp., which is capable of eliminating the mite, has been found and is now being evaluated by scientists at the Bodles Research Station in St. Catherine.
“We have identified a natural biological control agent that is in the system actually feeding on the mite and it is being evaluated,” Dr. Myers explained.
She added that although a natural predator has been identified, the ministry is working, in conjunction with the Coconut Industry Board, to organize a field trial at the industry’s nursery in Portland, to evaluate the treatments that have been selected by the ministry. However, an in-vitro assessment will be done prior to the field trial, in a bid to narrow down which treatment will be more appropriate for the mite.
According to the Acting Senior Research Director, the pest is a recent introduction to the region and not much is known about managing it, therefore, it has become a regional effort to identify the appropriate management strategies to deal with it.
Since the detection of the mite, several measures have been implemented, including the training of Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) officers in identifying the pest, developing sampling procedures and surveys, and the frequent evaluation of coconut nurseries in the parishes of St. Elizabeth, St. Thomas, St. Mary and Portland.

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