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Farmers in and around Pedro Plains in St. Elizabeth were last week exposed to strategies to manage the beet army worm, which has destroyed 37.5 hectares of escallion in the area.
At a farm day hosted by the St. Elizabeth Parish Office of the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), officials from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries demonstrated and recommended practical ways to protect their fields.
These include inspecting fields at least twice per week for the presence of moths, eggs, larvae and pupae and spraying with recommended insecticides at the stage when eggs have just hatched and worms are small in size.
Farmers are also encouraged to apply best crop production practices such as crop rotation, proper selection and rotation of insecticides and correct timing of applications, and to recognise the importance of natural enemies and the role of biological control.
“We looked at the various strategies that the farmers can implement in addressing the outbreak and minimising any further impact of the pest on their crops,” informed Senior Research Director for Plant Protection in the Ministry, Dr. Lisa Myers.
She stated that integrated crop and pest management strategies are critical in the prevention effort.
“We are stressing an integrated pest management approach, making sure that they have sufficient knowledge of the pest itself and what are the most susceptible stages that they can attack it with the hope of getting some amount of control,” she added.
Dr. Myers stressed that there is no evidence of a link between the outbreak of the pest and fertiliser imported into the island. “And, we must consider that an outbreak happened 15 years ago, and the fertiliser was no way in the picture. Scientifically, too, there is no evidence to suggest that there is a link between any fertiliser and this particular pest,” she emphasised.