Sat | Sep 23, 2017

Poor quality seeds hurting crop yields

Published:Saturday | September 24, 2016 | 9:00 AMChristopher Serju

The failure of Jamaican farmers and others who engage in plant and crop production to achieve and maintain consistently high levels of productivity is rooted in the poor quality planting stock they have been using over the years, according to veteran agronomist Webster W. McPherson.

"I can speak without fear of contradiction ... . It is my opinion that the [poor] quality of planting material is probably the single largest factor responsible for low agricultural output," McPherson declared during a recent training workshop hosted by Evergrow Garden Centre at the Caymanas Golf and Country Club, St Catherine.

"And it is not only seedlings. For a lot of crops established from cuttings such as yam and cane, the same is true. A lot of what is planted is not what is considered desirable," the agronomist, who has worked extensively in agriculture since graduating from the Jamaica School of Agriculture 40 years ago, explained.

Focusing mainly on vegetable seedlings, McPherson, who is a consultant to the Rural Agricultural Development Authority - the government extension service - highlighted the need for using well-developed, compact, and vigorous seedlings as a prerequisite for successful farming no matter the size of the operation. He said these seedlings, which could "stand on their own", should be free of pests, diseases, nematodes, and weed seeds.

The workshop was hosted in collaboration with Lambert Peat Moss out of Quebec, Canada.

Burrell Scarlett, general manager of Evergrow Garden Centre, told The Gleaner that it was in recognition of the overwhelming need to begin to address in a serious way how to make Jamaica's agriculture sector much more cost effective that they had come up with the theme 'High-Quality Growing Media at the Root of High-Quality Growth and Production'.

"It is a well-established scientific fact that there is a direct relationship between the quality of the germination and growing media and the quality of seedlings produced, and that high-quality seedlings are the foundation of high crop yields. It is also based on our awareness of the fact that the quality of much of the materials currently being planted by farmers is a primary factor adversely affecting Jamaica's agricultural productivity," said Scarlett.

christopher.serju@gleanerjm.com