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JIS News

With a budget of just under $200 million, the Research and Development Division (RDD) of the Ministry of Agriculture, is reaping success in its mission to generate information on appropriate technology for improved productivity in agriculture. The RDD was supplemented with monies from a special fund, which was used to increase the performance of the agriculture sector.
In addition the Division reports success in developing and utilizing new species and plant varieties as well as reducing the introduction and spread of plant diseases.
Outlining the projects that have been successful, Principal Research Director at Bodles, Joseph Lindsay singles out the apiculture sector as one that was high on the list and which benefited from an investment of $30 million.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Mr. Lindsay tells JIS News, established a honey monitoring and certification programme to facilitate the export of honey to a profitable European market. At the time, a new pest, the Small Hive Beetle was detected and the RDD developed a programme, which brought the pest under control.
Mr. Lindsay reports that pest management activities carried out by the Research and Development Division reached an all-time high especially in the area of biological control of pests where natural enemies were used to counter pest infestation. For example, he says, parasitic wasps were used to feed on the citrus root weevil.
“The RDD has an extension service which relates to pests,” he informs. Farmers are encouraged to call or send samples for testing as investigations into safer biological insecticides, which kill pests but spare natural enemies are currently being done. Mr. Lindsay says that they were being used on pumpkin crops. The efficiency of fungicides on the same crop is also being evaluated.
Leaps and bounds are also being made in the field of Nutraceuticals/Medicinal herbs.
This market, which has the potential to earn some $20 million is being examined by the RDD to identify the herbs, spices and plants that could have pharmaceutical and pesticidal properties. The crops being examined are ginger, sorrel, fever grass, rosemary and tumeric.
Research also, has evaluated a new sorrel cultivar, the ‘all-year’ variety, which can be produced throughout the year, Mr. Lindsay points out.
Continuing he says, the RDD also reaped success in growing high yielding Jamaican pumpkin varieties with a uniformed shape and size for export.
The production of fruit tree crops at Top Mountain, which are lychee, strawberry and raspberry, is also a success.
“Research found that spacing, pruning and a chilly climate found above 3,000 feet are normal requirements,” Mr. Lindsay tells JIS News. “Places such as Christiana, Mandeville and the strawberry hills of Trelawny have the requisite climate. The 0.4 hectares under production is for testing.it is not a commercial cultivation yet,” he points out.”But blackberry,” he adds, “is growing in St. Ann and it is on a certified organic farm. The fruits are not for export, they are for the hotel trade,” he explains.
The Division is also involved with another fruit tree crop research in order to generate adequate volumes of high quality fruits, such as ackee, to meet local agro-processing and export market demand. “Ackee was not being produced efficiently and not in enough quantities,” he says.
Also the local agricultural sector has been unable to satisfy the demand for fruit juices, based on low-yielding and inferior fruit tree cultivars, and a lack of organized orchard management.
In addition, Mr. Lindsay reports success in identifying tomato cultivar hybrids, which are tolerant to the Yellow Leaf Curl Virus.
Pointing out that another of the RDD’s functions was overseeing indigenous animal forages, Mr. Lindsay says that local animal fodder was analyzed against a background of rising costs of imported feed blends, and tested at the Animal Nutrition Laboratory at Bodles. Mulberry was revealed to be adequate for ruminants (cattle, goats, sheep).
“Mulberry is more sustainable in terms of it being able to be locally produced. Also, the protein content is similar to the feed blend concentrate imported. Family size farms can grow blocks of mulberry. Currently, Bodles is the first farm,” highlights Mr. Lindsay.
Solving day-to-day issues with technology is the reasoning behind the Research and Development Division’s testing and documentation, which will ultimately increase the bottom line of farmers, Mr. Lindsay tells JIS News.