Raymond Sukarloo was elated to hear that the Ministry of Agriculture was assisting farmers islandwide to set up pepper nurseries. He had been waiting for such an opportunity.
“For years I have been longing to have a nursery and the Agricultural Support Services Project (ASSP), came along and put up a structure and has been monitoring it,” he tells JIS News in an interview.
At his eight-acre farm in Nightingale Grove, St. Catherine, Mr. Sukarloo now has a large greenhouse pepper nursery, with thousands of flourishing scotch bonnet pepper seedlings.
Pepper cultivation under greenhouse conditions, has been proven to increase drought tolerance, sustain plant vigour, enhance pollination and build plant resistance against major diseases.
Mr. Sukarloo’s nursery is one of 16 that will be established under greenhouse conditions by the Ministry of Agriculture, through the ASSP, in an effort to meet the demand of the agro-processing trade, and for sale on the domestic market. Each nursery has the capacity to produce approximately 94,464 seedlings in six weeks. So far, nine nurseries have been set up and others are in various stages of construction.
Mr. Sukarloo explains that his greenhouse now contains 40,000 seedlings, which are cultivated in 200-cell or 72-cell seedling trays.
When the JIS visited his farm recently, the seedlings in the greenhouse were ready for distribution through the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), to small farmers in St. Catherine. The seedlings are produced in line with a quota set by RADA.
To speed-up the sowing operations, Mr. Sukarloo constructed a seed-dropping electric machine, which has the capacity to sow seeds into 100 of the 72-cell trays within an hour.
“It eliminates manual labour and it is a much faster method of sowing the seeds,” he adds, while demonstrating how the rugged-looking equipment, made from an old vacuum cleaner, operates.
Pepper farmer, Raymond Sukarloo (right), and Agro-Business Development Officer of the Agricultural Support Services Project (ASSP), Peter Edman, pepper farmer examine one of the 72-cell seedling trays at Mr. Sukarloo’s farm, in Nightingale, St. Catherine.
Asked to explain his success in growing the plants, the farmer emphasises that they need tender care. “Every day I look at them. I walk through the house, look at the plants to see what they need. I fertilise and water every other day, so that’s a routine for about five weeks,” he points out.
He also inspects the insect-resistant greenhouse, to ensure that insects are not crawling around. Those that enter through the ground are caught by traps set around the sides of the house.
Mr. Sukarloo had no previous experience in greenhouse farming, but he has kept abreast with the technology by reading and watching video cassettes on seedling production. Additionally, RADA Extension officers and personnel from the ASSP visit the farm regularly, to advise him on technical matters.
The greenhouse farmer is also kept busy tending to other crops. He has a thriving