Extension Officers Take Part in Pest Identification Course


Twenty seven extension officers from the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) and other organizations, began a one-week Pest Identification Training programme on January 28, aimed at strengthening their pest recognition skills.
The course will be held until February 1 at the Bodles Research Station in Old Harbour, St. Catherine. It was organized by the Agricultural Support Services Project (ASSP) in the Ministry of Agriculture, in collaboration with RADA and the Research and Development Division, Bodles Research Station.
Participants will attend lectures and participate in field and laboratory exercises, which will focus on the signs and symptoms of common diseases, systematic approach to pest recognition as well as parasitic nematode groups and their damage. Additionally, samples of diseases and pests will be collected in the field for assessment in the laboratory.
Addressing participants at the opening session at Bodles, Senior Plant Health Food Safety Specialist at RADA, Marina Young, said that extension officers must be able to give technical support and advice to farmers practising different levels of farming.
“We must ensure that when staff go into the fields they can comfortably manoeuvre from the low technology to the very high tech farms, in terms of giving support, advice and if necessary, to do investigations,” she said.
Pointing to the ratio of one extension officer to 1,600 farmers, Mrs. Young said it was impossible to reach all the farmers within a month or three months.
“Therefore, we have to work in a very focused manner, you have to schedule farm visits, identify your priorities, work closely with farm groups, but most of all, have technical skills to provide various services in one single visit,” she added.
Mrs. Young said that since 2006, the Ministry of Agriculture has committed significant sums of money for plant protection training. To date, 62 RADA officers, including senior plant and health specialists, zonal plant health specialists, area extension officers and assistant extension officers have been trained.
She told the officers that their pest recognition skills would be “absolutely essential,” citing the recent discovery of the Pink Mealy Bug.
“To date we have been able to manage all of the Pink Hibiscus Mealy Bug infested sites, in terms of releasing biological agents. I hope that after today’s training all will understand that eventually, we will have to deal with the Pink Mealy Bug on a country basis, so therefore your skills will be absolutely essential,” she said.
In his address, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Donovan Stanberry, said the Research and Development Division at Bodles and RADA would be the beneficiaries of “substantial resources” in an effort to provide support to farmers.
Mr. Stanberry said the Ministry was in a position to implement programmes to improve the extension and research capabilities, noting that continuous training was the only way to keep abreast of developments.
“For the first time I can say that money is not really a critical factor.just this morning, I met with the Minister. We have identified a block of funding from the European Union to really boost our capacity in respect of research and development and the extension services we need to provide for the emerging Green House sector,” he said.

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