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Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Audley Shaw, has said that the use of technology is the way forward for revamping the agricultural sector.
“We have now reached a point where we have demonstrated that the greenhouse technology is here, and it is working. The new frontier is to get the tissue culture side of things going, to get the clean disease-free planting material side of things going,” Mr. Shaw said.
The Minister was speaking at a Tissue Culture Certification closing ceremony, held in Christiana, Manchester, recently.
“In tissue culture, what you are doing is propagating clean, disease-free planting materials in very sterile and accurate conditions. Once you use these clean disease-free planting materials, your yield is at least two and a half times greater than normal. This is a dramatic representation of how you can use technology to improve your productivity, in terms of farming, and create the conditions for a better life for our farmers in rural Jamaica,” he said.
Lecturer in the Bio-technology Unit of the University of the West Indies (UWI), Dr. Sylvia Mitchell, guided the 10 participants over the one-week of training.
She explained that tissue culture is one way of ‘cloning’ the best available varieties of plants, in order to ensure the propagation of specific traits.
“When we have clean, disease-free planting materials, we have the best. Now, we have all we need in terms of the techniques, not just tissue culture now, but the molecular genetic techniques to clean the plants free of virus, to breed the plants that we want; breeding good varieties, and we have the ability to multiply them,” she informed.
Dr. Mitchell advised that a Mobile Micro-propagator Unit (MMU), had been established by the Bio-technology Unit at the UWI, to facilitate the training of persons, particularly in deep rural areas, who would not have easy access to the facilities in Kingston. There are also plans to place tissue culture laboratories at strategic points across the island, to provide the support necessary to boost productivity within the sector.
The Tissue Culture Certification exercise was facilitated by the Christiana Potato Growers Co-operative, in conjunction with the Bio-technology Unit of the UWI. It was financed jointly from the Constituency Development Fund for North East Manchester and North West Clarendon.
The programme is to be extended to the hilly interior of five parishes in Central Jamaica.