As part of its response to the Black Sigakota Disease currently threatening the region’s banana and plantain crops, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) will be providing intensive training in management of the disease at a workshop to be held in Dominica from 17-22 June at the Plant Protection & Quarantine Lab at the Botanic Gardens.
The workshop, which will help the region to build further capacity in the ongoing battle against the crop disease, will train two technicians each from Dominica, St. Lucia, Grenada, Guyana and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Training will focus on the effective use of fungicides to control and eradicate the disease.
The Caribbean’s high humidity and rainfall provide an ideal breeding ground for the disease, which is highly adaptable and can build up resistance to the combination of available fungicide treatments. Technicians will be trained to assess the disease’s sensitivity to specific ingredients and develop more effective treatment plans. International Consultant /Senior Plant Pathologist, Ministry of Agriculture in Cuba, Dr. Luis Perez-Vicente, will be the course facilitator of this one week training.
This activity will cap off a year of FAO supported activities in response to requests for assistance from the affected countries. Last year, the Organization provided an expert from Cuba to conduct an assessment of management efforts in each country and identify areas for improvement.
Out of these assessments, each country produced a management plan and an action plan. A regional plan was also compiled in conjunction with the CARICOM Secretariat, the OECS Secretariat, Caribbean Agricultural Research & Development Institute (CARDI), Inter-american Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture (IICA), CIRAD, the Ministry of Agriculture of Trinidad and Tobago and the Banana Board (Jamaica). FAO also assisted the beneficiary countries in developing a funding proposal with which they can seek further donor agency support for their ongoing efforts.
Black Sigatoka Disease is considered far and away the most destructive disease to bananas and plantains. The disease affects the leaves, severely impacting the plant’s ability to produce fruit of good size and weight and causes premature ripening of the fruit, diminishing their export potential. The disease spores are carried by leaves and other planting material and as such can be spread easily from farm to farm and from country to country.
Black Sigatoka Disease first made its way to the Caribbean in 1991 and has spread systematically since then throughout the region. In countries where Black Sigatoka Disease has flourished, the banana and plantain industries have suffered extensive losses. In St. Vincent and the Grenadines the value of exports of the fruits was reduced by 90%. Exports of plantains from Guyana declined by 100% within 2-3 years of the disease taking hold there.
It is hoped that with a comprehensive management plan and high levels of awareness both amongst commercial farmers and householders, that Black Sigatoka Disease can be controlled and eventually eradicated from the region.