August 26, 2011
SVG banana cleanup campaign underway

One week after the end of a series of consultations with banana farmers, a massive cleanup campaign for the control of the highly infectious leafspot disease Black Sigatoka, now affecting banana, plantain and other crops of the Musa species, will be intensified.{{more}}

As of yesterday, Thursday, August 25, a total of nine teams of Agricultural Officers from the Crops and Banana Service Units began converging on the banana belts to meet with individual banana farmers on their respective farms. There, the officers are holding discussions and issuing instructions regarding the details of the cut-back and cleanup procedures and other expectations of the famers.

According to Sylvester Vanloo, this activity is already in progress, but has been intensified to ensure completion in one week – on Thursday of next week. Vanloo has added that the disease is now affecting bananas right across the island and is presently above the accepted threshold level of 4. Some fields have registered as high as 7 (the Cronshaw Measure).

In a meeting held on Wednesday, September 24, with members of staff and other stakeholders in the banana industry, Chief Agricultural Officer Reuben Robertson announced that the activities necessary for the control and management of the Black Sigatoka had been discussed with and agreed by the farmers in the recently concluded consultations. He announced that the Black Sigatoka control program is already in effect with farmers who have complied with suggestions from the start and whose fields have been spayed by the Ground Crew. This he stated needs now to be extended islandwide and complemented with the application of aerial spraying, which will commence by mid-September of this year.

Robertson stated that farmers have welcomed the offers of assistance made by the Government, for the cut-back and clean-up activities. He outlined that the farmers are being offered financial assistance as well as the provision of inputs (fertilizer and planting material) to assist with the efforts to contain the spread and proliferation of the Black Sigatoka until the aerial spraying is fully implemented. “The chemical (fungicide) is already in place and the Ministry has already made arrangement for the purchase of the Oils needed for the spraying program which is expected to provide at least 3 cycles of aerial spraying by the end of the year.

In addition to the cut-back and clean-up exercise, all fields that have been abandoned and pose a potential threat as a source of innoculum for the Black Sigatoka will be destroyed. Robertson has confirmed that the Ministry of Agriculture etc is legally authorised to conduct activities of this type which pose a threat to the agricultural sector and will deploy a team of operators as of Monday, August 28.

Farmers will be notified of the dates when the teams will be in their respective areas.

The Black Sigatoka is a fungal disease which affects plants of the Musa species, including banana, plantain, bluggo and maughfaughbaugh. It has been recognized as a disease of economic importance which can reduce the export potential of banana in a very short time.