Farmers in Manchester and St. Elizabeth are being advised by the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries to take precaution against the beet armyworm, following a rise in the pest population.
Speaking at a Jamaica Information Service (JIS) Think Tank on Friday (Nov. 23), Deputy Director of the Crop & Plant Protection Unit, Michelle Sherwood, said that since the start of October, the unit has detected a surge in the pest in the seven areas of the two parishes, which are usually affected.
These include Cross Keys in Manchester and Comma Pen and Bull Savannah in St. Elizabeth.
“In our last evaluation, which was done on November 8, we found that the population has gone above what we call an action threshold. In all seven areas, we saw that the numbers are of concern because it is increasing and it is now at a point where farmers are being called on to manage their areas properly,” she said.
The beet armyworm is a destructive pest that affects the production of onion and scallion. Farmers are being encouraged by the Ministry to adhere to the warning and to implement pest control measures in order to prevent any potential damage to their fields.
“In the past, the value of the outbreaks has reached as much as $140 million. If we act now we can avoid a repeat of previous outbreaks. We are asking farmers to work with us by taking the necessary actions that have been shared with them through our Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) extension officers,” Ms. Sherwood advised.
She is appealing to farmers in the affected areas to reach out to the relevant authorities if they need additional information about the management and monitoring of their fields.
“It is very important to check your fields and if you are not sure about the measures, contact your RADA officer or call us at 876-745-2960 and we will be able to assist you,” she urged.
As part of the pest management measures, the Ministry and RADA have been working closely with the Meteorological Service of Jamaica (Met Service) to forecast conditions that are favourable to the breeding of the beet armyworm.
“The main effort we have designed, together, is early detection so now we are able to intervene in the problem before it gets out of hand, which has happened in the past. With this new approach, we have been able to attack the problem before farmers even begin to realise that the damage has gone into a level of outbreak,” said Ms. Sherwood.
Head of the Met Service’s Climate Branch, Jacqueline Spence, told JIS News that the forecast for the next few months is for conditions that are favourable to the breeding of the pest.
“The current forecast from my office, starting in December going through to about March, is for above normal rainfall, which would mean more food for the beet armyworm pest,” she noted.