JIS News

The Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) is urging the full cooperation of farmers as the Authority begins a survey on April 1 in St. James, to determine how many fields in the parish are affected by the Moko disease.
The survey will encompass all districts in the entire parish including households in Montego Bay.
The inspections will begin in the districts first showing symptoms of the disease – Montpelier, Silver Grove, George’s Valley, Vaughnsfield and Phoenix Road.
Fifteen RADA extension officers from the parishes of St. James, Hanover, Trelawny, Westmoreland and St. Elizabeth will be participating in this survey, which is expected to last from four to six weeks.
Speaking to JIS News, Philip Chung, RADA Senior Plant, Health and Food Safety Specialist stressed that this survey was vital to the survival of the banana industry and urged farmers to allow RADA extension officers to enter their fields to carry out inspections.
“We are trying to detect the disease so that we can help the farmers themselves to protect the banana industry,” stated Mr. Chung.
“If we do not find the disease wherever it is, it will become established. It will create an epidemic and all farmers will lose more than what is happening now so we are pleading with farmers – when the officers come around to do the survey, please allow them to come in,” he urged the farmers.
The only way of getting rid of the disease is to kill the infected plants, Mr. Chung told JIS News.
The extension officers will carefully inspect bananas and plantain for symptoms of the disease that include sick and unhealthy looking plants; yellowing and wilting of leaves; yellowing of suckers; shriveling of flowers; scorching of fruit; the blackening of the navel and dead plants.
Farmers are being advised to look out for these symptoms as well and contact RADA offices, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Banana Export Company (BECO), Banana Board, the European Union’s Banana Support Programme or the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS) if they suspect the presence of the disease.
RADA will plant “suppressive crops” in affected areas, said Mr. Chung, explaining that suppressive crops were those that did not act as hosts to the disease. If planted where the disease is present, the bacteria will not be able to grow and multiply. Suppressive crops include cassava, yam, sweet potato, carrot, corn and gungo peas.
Suppressive crops must remain in the affected area for at least 18 months to two years.
Mr. Chung stated that RADA was trying to procure additional assistance to conduct the survey so that it could be finished in a shorter time.
RADA is also assuring consumers that the bacterium that causes Moko disease is not harmful to humans and as such the fruits are fit for human consumption.
This survey is one of several strategies being employed by the Ministry of Agriculture to combat the Moko disease. Other measures include the formation of a technical team to monitor the situation and the destruction of eight hectares (20 acres) of banana in affected districts and adjoining communities in St. James.