Beet Armyworm infestation less than 5% - agri ministry
The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries is reporting that the Beet Armyworm infestation, that has been plaguing St Elizabeth, has declined to less than five per cent in cultivations still affected by the pest.
Acting deputy director of the Crop and Plant Protection Unit in the ministry’s Research and Development Division, Michelle Sherwood, says this decline results from extensive field work undertaken by the ministry, in collaboration with the farmers, and other stakeholders, across the parish.
These efforts have been supported by technical and financial assistance from international organizations such as the United Nations (UN) Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Speaking with JIS News following the recent graduation ceremony for participants in a nine-week farmers capacity building training programme, at the Junction Guest House in St Elizabeth, Sherwood said while the worm is still present in the parish, she assured that it exists “in very low numbers”.
She said the last major pest outbreak in St Elizabeth, since the worm first surfaced in 2009, was in 2012.
“Since that, we have not had an outbreak. We may have small flare-ups in numbers, but nothing compared to the devastation that occurred between 2009 and 2012,” she explained.
Based on the contents of the recently concluded nine-week programme, which targeted training for 150 farmers in St Elizabeth in combating the pest, Sherwood expressed confidence that the knowledge imparted will go a far way in helping to eventually eliminate the worm.
Sherwood explained that the exercise, titled: ‘Strengthening a National Beet Armyworm Programme’, focused on administering environmentally friendly control strategies, as against the application of chemicals and pesticides.
She said the farmers are now more informed and better able to identify problems associated with the worm at earlier stages and, thereby, undertake timely application of the appropriate interventions.
“We do (believe) that the training has been (and will be) a benefit to both the farmers and also to us, the facilitators, as we also learnt a lot of things from the farmers. I believe (that the) interaction (which) the farmers field school provided will also help us, in the long run, to further enhance the pest management programme,” she stated.
Sherwood advised that, as part of the ongoing work plan of the Research and Development Division, there will be continuous training and information sharing between farmers and field extension officers.
She added that even with the pest’s lingering presence, albeit at a lower percentage, with proper management, good crop outputs and high production yields can be achieved.
The training programme was funded by the FAO under a two-year agreement with the Government of Jamaica, and technical assistance from USAID.
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