George Henry, Gleaner Writer
More than 100 coffee farmers from Frankfield and neighbouring communities in Clarendon benefitted from a training seminar held recently at the Frankfield Church of Christ. The seminar, which was hosted by the Coffee Industry Board (CIB), was held to sensitise coffee farmers about controlling the coffee leaf rust disease which has been affecting several farms across the island.
Coffee leaf rust was first observed in Jamaica in 1986 in the coffee-growing community of Tweedside in Clarendon. Since then, farmers have been able to keep the disease under tolerable levels with the implementation of recommended cultural control practices and chemical control when it becomes severe.
However, since the passage of Hurricane Sandy last year, several coffee farmers have been noticing severe infection of their crops by the disease, especially in areas below 3,000 feet, forcing the CIB to host a number of seminars with farmers.
Glenroy Griffiths, regional director of the Central Region of the CIB, while speaking at the Frankfield seminar to educate farmers on the disease, said the efficacy of any spray programme depends on the timing of the application, choice of pesticide, placement and coverage of the material applied. He noted that the chemical being sprayed should be directed on the underside of the leaves.
Griffiths told the farmers that the disease can also be detected by small, yellowish, oily spots on the underside of the leaves of coffee trees, which then expand into large round spots that appear yellow on the top side of the leaves.
Farmers were told that in the presence of water the rusts spores are capable of germinating within five hours and penetrate the leaves through fine breathing holes found on the underside of the leaves. It is said that temperatures ranging between 18 and 27 degrees celsius will enhance germination.
With this in mind, Howard Edwards of Agro Grace Chemicals introduced the farmers to a wide range of chemicals. He explained their formulation, rate of application, re-entry time and harvest interval. Among the chemicals that were on display at the seminar were Tilt, Amister, Ridomil and Kocide; all of which, it is understood, can help the coffee farmers in controlling the disease.
Farmers were told that chemicals may be used to manage the disease after it has been determined that it is necessary to do so.
For slight infection, it is suggested that a copper base contact fungicide be applied. This can either be Kocide, Sulcox or Champion, at a rate of 2kg to 200 litres of water. Edwards stressed that if the disease is not properly controlled it could severely affect the production of coffee, resulting in low production and affecting the foreign exchange earned from the crop. Jamaica earned US$18.1 million in coffee export at the year ending July 2012.