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Black sigatoka becoming more expensive to contain

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The black sigatoka disease is expected to become increasingly more expensive to contain in the coming years.

This is what minister of Agriculture, Saboto Caesar revealed in Parliament this week, while replying to a question posed by parliamentary representative for North Leeward, Roland Matthews.{{more}}

According to Caesar, the expense will be because banana plants infected with black sigatoka will eventually become resistant to the herbicides being used to control them.

“It’s not something that one person can control or the ministry of agriculture alone; it takes a national effort,” the minister said.

“Last week, we had a meeting with persons from CIRAD (French Agri­cultural Research Centre for International Develop­ment). There are varieties of banana plants that are resistant to black sigatoka. However, the consumers are noting that they are not attuned to the taste.”

Caesar noted that these varieties may be an alternative for St Vincent and the Grenadines and encouraged persons with plants in their backyards to experiment with these disease resistant species.

Until then, black sigatoka remains a very serious issue for the agricultural sector. The ministry of agri­culture has put several measure in place; one being the aerial spraying of fields in six cycles yearly.

While addressing the issue, Caesar revealed that persons had indicated their desire for the ministry to increase these cycles.

“The Ministry of Agricul­ture has its reservations about using aerial spraying, not as it relates to deficiency of aerial spraying to control the black sigatoka disease but as it relates to the possible impact on human health and also possible damage to other sensitive plants,” he said.

The minister added that unlike Central America where fields are isolated, there are villages surrounding plantations in St Vincent that can be adversely affected by an increase in the cycles.

Instead, Caesar indicated that the ministry will continue with their six cycles per year and introduce other measures to combat the serious disease.

These measures include Intensifying processes of destroying plants as infected plants become permanent hosts of disease, a continuation of ground teams and increased spraying, microclimatic stations to assist with forecasting of diseases, and training of farmers to implement best practices to deal with black sigatoka.

“We have to have the students at the community college and also the students who are overseas studying in these fields to become engaged. Citizenry engagement is critical if we are to solve many of these…problems,” he said.

“This problem that we’re facing with black sigatoka is one that every citizen should be concerned about because of the deep seated impact that it can have.” (BK)

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