Thu | Sep 21, 2017

Assistance for farmers affected by beet armyworm

Published:Thursday | May 4, 2017 | 5:00 AM
Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, J.C. Hutchinson (left), is shown the damage done to his scallion farm by the beet armyworm, by Ralden Bellanfante, when the minister stopped at his farm in the Duff House/New Forest Agro Park in Manchester on Monday.

The Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries is assessing the impact of the beet armyworm on farmers in the Duff House/New Forest Agro Park and surrounding areas of Manchester.

This is being done so that a decision can be taken as to how best to assist the farmers who have lost some 150 acres of scallion, tomato, cucumber, callaloo, onion and beetroot to the deadly beet armyworm. Between 200 and 300 more acres are being impacted by the worm.

The Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) conducted a preliminary estimate, which was turned over to the ministry.

Most of the land in the Duff House/New Forest Agro Park will have to be rehabilitated before farmers can plant the same crop again.

BE MORE VIGILANT

Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry, J.C. Hutchinson, toured some 12 of the affected farms on Monday to get a first-hand look at the damage and offer advice regarding the road to recovery.

"Some of the farmers have left up the farms to the beet armyworms and the worms have migrated to the unaffected farms and done their damage," Hutchinson observed.

"We have to get the information out to the farmers quickly. To really control the pest now, we have to plough the land so that the birds can come in and eat the worms; then after the soil is rested, the farmers will have to do some crop rotation."

He said the farmers need to change their culture of simply abandoning a farm because it is infested by the beet armyworm.

Already, the beet armyworm has reached St. Elizabeth where 50 acres have been affected. To mitigate against further damage, a team from RADA is now conducting a series of training sessions to teach the farmers how to deal with the worms.

The beet armyworm eats the leaves, stems and flowers of the plants, causing them to wither and die. To help stop the spread of the deadly pest, farmers must walk through their farms daily, look for signs of eggs on the leaves of their crops, and then spray the field. They should also purchase pheromone septa detectors that will reveal the presence of the pests and that will alert them to spray their fields.