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Roshni Ramsingh (left) and Gayatri Singh-Ramlogan identify the Cushiony Cotton Scales pest on a plant specimen (Photo: MoALF)

Home gardening enthusiasts and farmers from as far as Rio Claro seized the opportunity to have their plant sicknesses diagnosed at a plant clinic hosted by Trinidad and Tobago’s Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries (MoALF) at its Farmers’ Training Centre in Centeno. After a in-depth one-on-one discussion with Ministry representatives from the Extension, Training and Information Services Division (ETIS), participants were each given a prescription sheet which captured a host of valuable information, including a description of the plant problem and the recommended control measures.
The clinic team’s lead, Ministry entomologist Roshni Ramsingh, said that the timing of the outreach activity was opportune as the Ministry was currently in the process of revamping strategies to be more proactive in its overall management of plant pests and diseases. She said: “If through these clinics we are able to forecast the problems that agricultural stakeholders are having, then over time we will be able to actively gauge particular diagnostic trends which can thus guide our management options and inform any training courses to effectively address any issues identified.”
For example, Ms. Ramsingh identified that at least three participants’ pimento leaves bore the adverse effects of the Cottony Cushion Scales pest. According to her,  this is highly unusual and the frequency of reports of the pest may be indicative of a wider trend.
Apart from the Cottony Cushion Scales pest, plant pests and diseases such as thrips on cotton, caterpillar damage and nutrient deficiencies were also identified. According to Ms. Ramsingh, the data captured in the clinic will be used to populate the Ministry’s database which will prove useful in responding to the needs of the agricultural community. She hinted: “The Ministry continues to see tremendous value in this exercise, which no doubt represents the first of many to be embarked upon this year.”
Contributed by Yolande Agard-Simmons, Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries

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