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Evesham banana farmer on the rebound since Black Sigatoka

Evesham banana farmer on the rebound since Black Sigatoka

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Despite being hard hit by the devastating Black Sigatoka disease back in 2010, banana farmer Aldon ‘Eldon’ Delpleche is on the rebound with his farm, and is now encouraging other farmers to follow suit.{{more}}

The Evesham resident, who has been a banana farmer for more than twenty years, had to watch his four acres of banana land turn from a healthy field of green leaves to a discolored and dry field because of the disease.

However, not willing to give up on what had provided food and a roof over the heads of his family members, Delpleche acted upon guidelines of the “Cut Back Exercise” provided by the Ministry of Agriculture.

During a visit to his farm on Tuesday by Minister of Agriculture Saboto Caesar and other members of the Ministry, Delpleche spoke of his recovery process.

He said adhering to the Ministry’s guidelines “is working just fine…”

“When the field officer told me what to do, I did it immediately. Over the years I have been fighting this Black Sigatoka with the advice from the Ministry of Agriculture, and so far, so good.”

Delpleche’s new field of bananas is in the fourth month of the recovery stage, and he says once the spraying cycle implemented by the government last year continues, the banana industry has a chance of being revived.

“We are already fighting and doing everything that is being asked of us, but there are certain things that are beyond our control that we cannot do.

“So we expect the Ministry of Agriculture and the relevant authorities to do their part…”

Standing in the midst of his luscious green banana field, Delpleche explained that his new field of bananas could have been in a better state, but his inability to purchase manure and other needed chemicals, because of lack of finance, contributed to the less than optimal state.

“The Ministry of Agriculture gave me some manure about a month ago, and that is what cause it to look so good now. When I got the manure, I gave them (the bananas) two fast applications in twenty days time…

“About one month ago, this field looked red… but look at it now, just that dose from the ministry has helped,” he added.

He encouraged his fellow banana farmers and officials of the Ministry of Agriculture to continue working together.

“We cannot fight this disease on our own. This disease is not about spraying alone. If we don’t get food (manure) in time, we are fighting a losing battle.

“We all have to work together, because this is our thing, and as long as the farmers are getting the support, we will get there.

“I am encouraging farmers right now to take back up their guns and start firing again. I don’t mean the illegal gun. Your cutlass, your fork and let us clean up the field and get on with it,” Delpleche stated.

Meanwhile, Chief Agricultural Officer Reuben Robertson commended the farmer for his efforts in reviving his banana field and urged other farmers to follow Delpleche’s example.

The Chief said that if persons follow the proper procedures, banana production can still be commercialized, even with the presence of the Black Sigatoka.

“…The field is green, and we are asking now that all farmers follow these practices so that we can have banana production becoming commercialized again, even though we are still fighting to manage the disease.

It was also observed during the farm visit that some of the bananas had up to twelve healthy leaves, which according to Robertson was a sign of a healthy bunch of bananas.

“We have been promoting the idea that once the farmer does his part in managing his field properly and the government fulfills its role in by controlling the disease by regular spraying, we can have healthy banana plants which will provide good quality bunch.”

As the touring team walked through Delpleche’s banana field, Robertson stopped to demonstrate how the affected plants should be de-leafed and the leaves placed on the ground.

Using a cutlass, he chopped the leaves off one by one, and piled them together on the ground away from any of the banana trees, turning the affected area of the chopped leaf face down.

Once the leaves are placed in one location, this minimizes the chance of the Black Sigatoka disease spreading throughout the field, according to Robertson.

During their visit to the farm, located in Evesham, Minister of Agriculture Saboto Caesar and Robertson both assisted in de-leafing a few identified affected banana plants in Delpleche’s field.

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