Rallying around plant health in Jamaica

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Plant doctor Andrea Legg showing farmers an instar of the beet armyworm during the “understand the beet to beat the beet” module of the plant health rally held on May 31, at the St. Elizabeth  Agri-Fest (Credit: Marina Young, RADA, Jamaica)

The Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), Research and Development Division (R&D) and Plant Quarantine Produce Inspection (PQPI) – all agencies of the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries of Jamaica – teamed up  with CABI Plantwise to prepare the first of a series of rallies on different plant health topics. A two-day workshop was held last month with a group of trained plant doctors on how to prepare and deliver a plant health rally.

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Participants of the workshop discussing the topics for the plant health rally (Credit: José Gómez, CABI)

During the workshop, plant doctors developed a plant health rally on beet armyworm (Spodoptera exigua Hübner), as it is a pest of economic importance in Jamaica due to its adaptation to harsh environmental conditions and resistance to pesticides. In the parish of Saint Elizabeth, considered one of the largest crop production area areas in the island, farmers have been experiencing frequent beet armyworm flare-ups and outbreaks. Even though integrated crop management strategies have been developed and widely promoted by extension services in Jamaica, there are multiple pest trigger factors and inconsistent at times approach to control for this pest (Lopez et al 2014).

According to Mrs. Marina Young, RADA Technical Services Principal Director and Plantwise Coordinator for RADA, the plant health rally is considered as a new approach for Jamaica’s plant health system and compliments other extension approaches used for transferring knowledge and skills to farmers and other stakeholders.

Developing a plant health rally requires the design and delivery of targeted messages in a format of specially designed modules. Each module focuses on a key pest management aspect.  The plant health rally has several modules, delivered in pre-determined sequence and logically connected into one integrated control system.

The beet armyworm plant health rally consists of four individual modules that address key messages for pest management:

  1. “Understand the beet armyworm life cycle”;
  2. “consistent scouting equals consistent income” for field inspection and assessing beet armyworm;
  3. “trap one moth to prevent 150 worms” for construction and use of pheromone traps; and,
  4. “beet armyworm forecasting” to introduce farmers to an advisory bulletin based on environmental and pest scouting data collected by R&D, RADA and the Meteorological Service of Jamaica.

This rally was structured in a way that farmers were split into four groups, which allows them to rotate into all of the modules. Each module runs for approximately 15 minutes, and includes practical demonstrations and interactive communication with participants and feedback questions.

After the workshop, two plant health rallies were organized on May 9 and May 31, reaching a total of 41 male and 48 female farmers and 27 students during these two days. As part of the plant health rallies, a jingle and factsheets about beet armyworm management are given to farmers on the key messages covered. Comments and opinions received from farmers and plant doctors participating in the rallies were all positive and encouraging.

Due to this positive feedback and the relative ease of developing and delivering the rally, plant doctors are now looking to organize another plant health rally soon, this time on the management of cocoa frosty pod rot disease.

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Plant doctors Camille Marks-Kelly and Earl Watkis while delivering the “Consistent scouting equals consistent income” module (Credit: José Gómez, CABI)

Read the annual report to learn more about the Plantwise programme in Jamaica→

References

Lopez, V; W. Hammond; M. Sherwood; M. Young; K. Dalip; D. Passard; Y. Takeuchi; and, J. Thomas. 2014. FAO’s support towards the sustainable management of beet armyworm (Spodoptera exigua) in Jamaica. In Proc. of the Caribbean Food Crops Society. 50: 38-48.

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