Thu | Aug 24, 2017

SRC fights for ginger

Published:Saturday | January 2, 2016 | 1:00 AM

The Scientific Research Council (SRC), in partnership with the International Atomic Energy Agency, has started a breeding programme using radiation to modify the genes of ginger affected by the rhizome rot.

Executive Director of the SRC Dr Cliff Riley said that the process, which seeks to eliminate the fungus that affects locally produced ginger, involves exposing the ginger to radiation and then inoculating them with the fungus to test the resistance of the plant.

"Once the plant is resistant to the virus, you can then start using the rhizomes again to cultivate the plant," Riley said.

He noted that the SRC has gone through a number of cycles for the breeding and inoculation of the plant. In another two months, the council will be advanced in the evaluation process.

"The challenge that the SRC has is the length of time that the plant takes to grow, with a nine-month waiting period, and then three to four months for it to re-sprout," Riley explained.

He said the council was in the evaluation phase and was hopeful that by the end of the financial year 2017, it would be able to confirm the resistance profile to start mass-producing the plant for introduction in the field.

The Jamaican yellow ginger industry was severely affected by the rhizome rot. The rhizome rot, which is spread by a fungus known as fusarium, causes the plant to wilt and turn yellow. This fungus is easily transferrable.

"Once an infected plant is moved from one area and planted in another, the fungus can be transferred," Riley said.

The fungus affects both the Jamaican yellow and blue ginger.

The partnership on the project between the SRC and the International Atomic Energy Agency began almost three years ago.