By Anicia Antoine
(GIS) — The Taiwanese Technical Mission through the Banana Productivity Improvement Project has been improving farmers’ productivity and revitalizing the banana industry in Saint Lucia with a view to restoring the confidence of the farmers following the outbreak of Black Sigatoka disease.
With domestic banana production being negatively impacted due to the COVID-19 pandemic and further compounded by the dry spell, the Government of Saint Lucia through the banana improvement project has been assisting farmers with the upkeep of their plantations.
Officer attached to the Banana Productivity Improvement Unit, Elkanah Jankie explained that approximately 12, 000 litres of oil and 9000 bags of fertilizer have been distributed to farmers to date.
“The project has provided one treatment of fertilizer along with one treatment of oil fungicide mix for the control of Black Sigatoka, and that is free. However, for farmers to qualify for support the farm must be in working condition, and not abandoned, or semi-abandoned.”
Crop Protection Officer in the Ministry of Agriculture, Cletus Alexander, explained that the Government of Saint Lucia adopted an integrated approach to control the spread of the Black Sigatoka.
“What we have realized is that the use of oil alone will not sufficiently control Black Sigatoka. Many people believe the oil is a fungicide which means it’s going to kill the fungus. But the oil is actually a fungistat—it will reduce the amount of fungus on the leaves. From my observation normally during the dry season when there is less moisture, there is less trouble with fungal diseases, but as you approach the rainy season, leaf wetness is a critical factor in the development of the fungus.”
Another infestation presently plaguing domestic banana plantations is the mealybug. This type of insect can cause tip growth distortion and death, as well as premature leaf and fruit drop. The Banana Productivity Improvement Project has also been taking measures to prevent and control the spread of banana mealybugs.
“When we realized that we had a surge in the level of mealybugs in the fields, we held farm clinics to sensitize the farmers on the situation and what could be done to control or to manage the levels of mealybugs,” Jankie said.
Agriculture officials reaffirmed the Government of Saint Lucia’s commitment to improving the infrastructure of banana cultivation and cultivation-management skills.