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Indian scientist: Work on red palm mite must continue
After one year of significant research on the red palm mite (RPM) by Indian scientist Avvura Sujatha, the Food Production Ministry now has to maximise and further that work. Sujatha was brought to T&T through a joint effort by the Ministry and the Caribbean Agriculture Research Development Institute (Cardi) facilitated through bilateral arrangements between the governments of T&T and India.
Sujatha, an entomologist, came to T&T in February 2012 and worked on finding a natural enemy for the RPM to assist in mitigation and control of the pest. At a farewell ceremony hosted by Cardi at its headquarters at UWI, St Augustine, Sujatha said it was important for T&T to continue what she has started to fully determine the success of the research.
“Out of 90 natural enemies that were collected, we found one potential natural enemy. We brought it to the laboratory and established a protocol for mass production,” she said.
Sujatha said this has to be multiplied in large numbers, followed by field testing. She said the multiplication process had started, but must be continued.
Most importantly, Sujatha said, in addition to biological control, farmers must employ good agricultural practices, especially sanitation, ploughing, application of organic menues and fertilisers, and regular irrigation, etc. She said this would largely assist in creating a healthy environment so the RPM would not be able to thrive. Echoing similar sentiments was Dr Arlington Chesney, executive director of Cardi, who said the work done by Sujatha has resulted in a renewed commitment to resuscitating the coconut industry. However, he said, it is very important that the Food Production Ministry continue Sujatha’s work.
“We have to multiply the natural enemy and distribute them in the fields for testing. More importantly, we have to keep the estate or plantations clean so that the RPM does not have an environment in which it could be multiplied because it is very debilitating on the coconut industry. Chesney said they also have to look at other pests that may be threatening the industry. “Therefore, Sujatha advised that we employ an integrated pest management programme, so that we could maximise the returns.”
He said the resuscitation of the coconut industry is very critical because there are several productive and economical uses of coconuts. For example: production of coconut water, virgin coconut oil and other by products of coconut. Former Food Production Minister Vasant Bharath, who now has the portfolio of Trade, Industry and Investment, said agriculture was one of the areas his ministry has targeted for diversification. He said trade played an important role in agriculture. The RPM, described as a red ring disease, is a phytophagous alien species first reported in the Caribbean in 2004 in the island of Martinique. It has since spread throughout the region. The mite was detected in T&T in 2006, when it significantly affected the coconut industry.
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