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A formal agreement signed in 1999 between bauxite alumina company, ALPART and the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) led to the establishment of the Sam Motta Goat and Sheep Demonstration Training Centre (SMGSDTC) in Knockpatrick, Central Manchester.
The centre, which is named after Sam Motta, a livestock scientist who contributed to the introduction of forage evaluation and utilisation in the ruminant industry in Jamaica, began operations in February 2000 on 20 hectares of mostly mined-out land made available by ALPART.
Initially, the main activities of the centre were focussed on small ruminants. However, in recent years, activities have expanded to include vegetable, root and tree crop production, utilising the integrated crop-livestock system where outputs from both crops and livestock operations are used to add value to reclaimed bauxite lands.
In an interview with JIS News, Animal Productionist and Head of the Livestock Unit at CARDI, Albert Fearon explains that the first process in the integrated crop-livestock system involves the use of manure from the goat production system in creating a compost heap.
“What we are doing here is double fold, we are using the manure to find out the productivity because you know mined out bauxite lands is a little bit challenging, so what happens we move the manure from the goat house, that’s the first stage,” he says.
The holding areas where the goats are kept are specially designed with the floor consisting of wooden planks with approximately a half inch groove between each plank. These grooves allow the goat manure and the refuse grass to fall through and form a pile under the goat house. This is then collected at the end of the day and removed to the compost heap site.
At the SMGSDTC, two types of composting are carried out, the regular composting and vermicomposting. Regular composting is the crop residue, which consists of left over crops after a reaping as well as those crops which are not marketable. These are then added to the goat manure and refuse grass from the goat house in a compost heap, after which two or three bamboo stakes are inserted into the heap to allow air to enter the heap. At intervals the components of the heap is rotated to ensure that the materials are broken down evenly and thoroughly.
The other type of compost involves the process of vermiculture which is the growing of earthworms under optimal moisture and aerated conditions to produce from goat manure, earthy looking excretions (worm castings) called vermicompost.
At the SMGSDTC, the California Red Wriggler worms are used in the process of vermicomposting as local earthworms are deep feeders compared to their California counterparts, which feed near to the surface.
Following these processes, the manure is then added to crops and forages (grasses and legumes) as manure to aid in their yield. After reaping, the marketable crops are reaped and sold and the forage is reaped and fed to the small ruminants (sheep and goats).
The process of the integrated crop-livestock system begins all over again when the crop residue, unmarketable crops, refuse grass and goat manure from the goat house, are added to the regular compost heap. Meanwhile, the refuse grass and goat manure are added to the vermicompost heap as the red worms, which are hermaphrodites, reproduce rapidly once there is food. Hence there is a constant need to keep adding new substrate.
Soil Scientist and CARDI Country Representative to Jamaica Dr. Leslie Simpson, says the aim of using small ruminants, red worms, and crops together is to sell the idea of the integrated crop-livestock system and to show how by using appropriate technology, reclaimed bauxite lands can yield productive food crops.
He tells JIS News that in order to overcome the problems associated with reclaimed bauxite land, organic matter is added to the soil in order to improve on the soil’s productivity.
“One of the things that help to alleviate many of the problems is addition of organic matter so we have to look at some means of applying organic matter into reclaimed bauxite soil. Traditionally, we increase the organic matter by planting grass, feeding the grass to ruminants and slowly but surely the organic matter builds up. With crops you need to add it a little faster, hence the need to have some kind of compost,” he said.
As part of the integrated crop-livestock system to demonstrate the viability of applying technology to reclaimed bauxite lands, the process of soil solarisation is utilised at the SMGSDTC. Solarisation is a non-chemical method for controlling soil borne pests, using high temperatures produced by capturing energy from the sun.
This method involves heating the soil by covering it with clear plastic tarp for four to six weeks. The plastic sheets allow the sun’s radiant energy to be trapped in the soil, heating the top 12 to 18 inches of soil and killing a wide range of soil borne pests, such as weeds, pathogens, nematodes and insects.
Technical Assistant at SMGSDTC, Rohan Smith in explaining the process of solarisation used at the centre says that a section of the field used for crop cultivation was divided into four plots. The plots are then prepared for the cultivation of vegetables. Two of these were selected to be solarised and the other two were non-solarised. This he points out was done in order to compare yields from the two plots.
“On the farm there are two solarised plots and two non-solarised, so what we did was to compare the yield. So far the solarised plots give you a better yield, a higher yield than the non-solarised,” he says.
He added that the aim of solarising the plots is to create a condition where heat and moisture kills nematodes out of the soil so that the plants will not suffer much root damage.
“You won’t get that longevity out of the plant if it has root damage, so sooner or later, the plant will die. So what we are trying to do is to eliminate the nematodes,” he explains.
To assist with the solarisation process to produce higher crop yield, 0.5 five kilograms of manure from the regular compost is added to each hole during cultivation.
Another pest management process demonstrated under the integrated crop-livestock system at SMGSDTC is the exclusion method, which is a physical method of pest management that prevents pests from getting to crops.
This is achieved by constructing mesh cages or tunnels around the plants which can be applied at the nursery and or the field level.
CARDI under the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) – sponsored Integrated Pest Management Collaborative Research Support Programme (IPMCRSP), concluded after several seasons of experimentation, that callaloo production using this system can lead to drastically reduced pesticides input. The Institute also found that the crop may be maintained pesticide free allowing the vegetable to have a competitive advantage and fetch a higher price.
In 2008, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries gave financial support to CARDI to conduct on-farm validation and demonstration of the exclusion technology, under commercial conditions to show its potential to increase the quantity and quality of callaloo produced.
The main objective of on-farm validation is to show that the utilisation of the exclusion method of pest management enhances food safety and increases farmer income.
The SMGSDTC since its inception in 2000, has achieved: successful distribution of over 100 service bucks and over 200 breeding does, resulting in improved breeding stocks.
In addition, the stud buck service offered by the centre has contributed to the production of over 500 native does graded by the Nubian, Boer and Alpine breeds, while some 200 farmers from the mining districts of Knockpatrick and surrounding areas have benefitted from the centre.
Over 3000 farmers, students and householders have gained practical experience at the centre, which also facilitated the cross fertilisation visits of faculties and students from the Universities of Florida and Maryland in the United States.
“Sustainable agricultural practices for production and sustainable in many sense and for many reasons must be viable and economically sound and must also be able to protect the environment in this time of environmental stress and so on. It should allow for little waste and the recycling of nutrients. This is what we are trying to show here at Sam Motta Centre,” Dr. Simpson notes.

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