CLOSER COLLABORATION BETWEEN MINISTRY OF AGRICULTURE AND USDA

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The Ministry of Agriculture’s Entomology arm will receive additional support next month when some five scientists from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) join forces with their local counterparts.

The scientists, who will be in the island for approximately two weeks between the months of September and October, will be collaborating with local entomologists on work involving the control of the Chilli Thrips, West Indian Fruit Fly and the Giant African Snail.

Giving some detail on the collaboration, Entomologist, Ian Gibbs, said it had been ongoing and had accrued to mutual benefits for both parties.

“We have had good cooperation over the past few years and in my opinion it is a good thing because both of us (Barbados and USA) benefit. We get to share technology, we get the use of their expertise and from our end they get information on how to control the pests.  Of the packages that they develop here, the technology can be directly transferred to the farmers; they can do the same in the United States, so it is a win-win situation,” he explained.

The first scientists arriving on September 24,   will be Dr. Matt Ciomperlik; Dr. David Robinson and Mr. Tim Stevens who will be testing various formulations of   metaldehyde and other molluscicides in the field for the control  of the Giant African Snail.   Dr. Ciomperlik will also be collaborating with the Ministry on the Chilli Thrips, specifically in relation to four ongoing trials aimed at monitoring the population build-up in various crops.

Later in the month, the Entomology team will welcome Dr. Chang Chu, who will further the work on the control of the Chilli Thrips.   This aspect of the work, Mr. Gibbs explained, would be specifically looking at the testing of two insecticides for the control of the Chilli Thrips in cotton. This is part of   the Ministry’s integrated pest management programme for cotton in Barbados.

Giving further detail on this aspect of the effort, Mr. Gibbs said the scientific team would seek to monitor the action thresholds  for  the Thrips – that is the number of   pests that must be on a given plant to determine whether one sprays or not to control it. “We are looking at how the population of Chilli Thrips builds up on various crops over time and the damage symptoms that farmers can identify and look for .  So it is all technology that can be readily transferred to the farmers,” he explained.

Mr. Gibbs stressed that due to the regular movement of pests  the team would be interested in learning how to curb the spread of the Chilli Thrips.   “Obviously they are very interested because they do not  want the pests to build up in the United States. It is already in certain parts of the country, but they do not  want it to build up all over.” In terms of the cotton industry, he noted, that while we presently only plant between 250 to 300 acres, the United States has some 13. 7  million acres which would amount to even greater financial losses.

“Similarly if it gets into their vegetable crops you are looking at losses of billions of dollars,” he added.
Fruit Fly Specialist with the USDA, Tim Holler, will  be here  from October 2 – 13 , to  assist with  initiating  the biological  control  programme for the  West Indian Fruit Fly. Mr. Gibbs explained that they previously sought to control this pest by monitoring its levels in various crops and advising affected persons on how they could go about reducing it mainly through field sanitation. He added, however, that the biological control programme would entail the introduction of one or two species of small parasitic wasps.

“People sometimes get a bit skeptical about biological control – they think that the thing you are going to introduce is going to become a pest in its own right. Again, as with these parasites that we are going to introduce, they are specific to the Fruit Fly and if they cannot  find them they die out so the parasite does not become a pest in its own right,” he assured.

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