Plant Health Specialist with the Ministry of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Health and Food Control Agency and Entomologist, Bret Taylor (right) giving farmer Desmond Bostic some advice on his problem with white flies. (G. Brewster/BGIS)

Farmers showed up at the Ministry of Agriculture’s Plant Clinic, The Glebe, St. George, today with their ???sick’, diseased and pest-ridden crops hoping for "miracles".

It was the second clinic held by the Ministry’s National Agricultural Health and Food Control Agency this week. The first took place yesterday at the South Eastern Farmer’s Co-op, Six Roads, St. Philip. Both clinics ran from 9:00 a.m. until noon.

Plant Health Specialist with the agency, Bret Taylor, said the clinic at Six Roads was a success even though it got off to a slow start.

"…But, then the farmers started to come out. We had farmers who said they had problems with their sweet potatoes, [and] problems with their squash. Householders came with problems afflicting their ornamentals. Right now in Barbados ornamentals such as Desert Roses are big business and householders don’t like to know that something is wrong. So, we had people coming in with their ornamental plants. The response was quite good.

"Up to the time we left – just after [noon] – we still had people attending the clinic. Some of the common problems were mostly [those] associated with this dry period of the year when we had lots of scale insects and from those we had Sooty Mould or what Bajans commonly refer to as ???blight’ on the plants. So, those were some of the issues we were dealing with yesterday," Mr. Taylor disclosed.

He said the trainee plant doctors at the clinic at The Glebe, which was set up in the St. George Parish Church’s car park, also saw some of the same problems from farmers.

Most of them were associated with hot pepper and citrus plants. Mr. Taylor noted that the dry weather Barbados had been experiencing in recent times contributed to the problem.

"We are seeing problems from white flies. These are usually pests that are a lot more prevalent, a lot more prolific during dry periods," he explained.

The Plant Health Specialist added that the clinics were designed to help farmers and householders by providing on-the-spot diagnoses of their plants’ problems, in addition to making recommendations including how to use environmentally safe chemicals to control pests. Any suspicious or peculiar specimens found during the examinations are sent to the lab for investigation, he explained.

Mr. Taylor pointed out that farmers attending the clinics were required to fill out a data sheet with their contact information, as well as information on their crops and the problem(s). This, he noted, would help the Agency in compiling a database of pests and diseases affecting local crops as well as to identify when new pests came into the island.

Farmer Desmond Bostic, said he was grateful for the information gained from attending the clinic at The Glebe.

"When I heard about this, I said I must take the opportunity to come and bring along these leaves and show them to the doctors. It may not only help me, but it might help other farmers too," he said.

The purpose of the National Agricultural Health and Food Control Agency is to co-ordinate all of the agricultural health and food safety issues in Barbados, including plant and animal health.

The next plant clinics will take place at Agrofest 2013 on Saturday, February 23 and Sunday, February 24, in Queen’s Park, The City.


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