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The Scientific Research Council (SRC) will continue to support the agricultural sector, with the aim of boosting Jamaica’s food security.
The assurance comes as the agency works to increase its supply of disease-free plantlets for what it describes as economically important crops.
These include pineapples, ginger, and Irish and sweet potatoes. Farmers can also add more plants to the list, even if they fall outside of this category.
Plantlets are produced through tissue culture, a technique used to cultivate living tissue in an artificial environment where they can continue to thrive.
Research Officer of the Biotechnology Department of the SRC, Kemar Rose, said the agency is working to fulfil its mandate of contributing to sustainable agriculture and development.
In addition to being disease-resistant, the Council’s plant-breeding programme focuses on improving local crops to produce higher yields to and increase the plants’ nutritional profile and make them climate resilient, so they can withstand drought and salty conditions.
Mr. Rose is encouraging cultivators to invest more in disease-free plantlets. He stressed that this would lower the nation’s food import bill, especially where it concerns purchasing plant materials.
“We are seeing some amount of resistance from our farmers. Because of the technology that we use, and the crops are disease-free, the plantlets are a lot more expensive than to go to a next farmer or get seeds from somewhere else. But these plants are less likely to die in the field, and in the end, it will work out because you get more yields,” he told JIS News.
While emphasising the safety of tissue-cultured plantlets, the Acting Team Leader of the Biotechnology Department at the SRC, Shishca Higgings, said these should not be confused with genetically modified foods.
“We do not interfere with the DNA of plants, what we do is we produce clones, which are genetically identical plantlets of the mother plant. And this is important. For example, in Jamaica our industry has been plagued with the rhizome rot disease. But [with our technology] we can produce large numbers of plantlets that will be resistant to this disease,” she said.
Ms. Higgins added that the SRC intends to produce Irish potato micro tubers in due course, using a different method.
The SRC will also provide 30,000 sweet yam plantlets that will be distributed to farmers across the island.