Agriculture Officials Need Assistance To Fight Lethal Yellowing

CHARLESTOWN NEVIS (November 02, 2006)
The Ministry and Department of Agriculture are hopeful they would recieve positive word from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), to assist with the fight against the further spread of the Lethal Yellowing, a disease which has affected coconut trees in Nevis.
Mr Keithley Amory Deputy Director of Agriculture in a recent interview told the Government Information Service (GIS) that in a move to address the incurable disease which affected coconut and other palm trees, the Nevis Island Administration had sought assistance from the United Nations organisation to assess the status of the infection and to give some technical assistance. “We are really grateful for the assistance of FAO and we are hoping this does qualify for the proposed project,” he said.According to Mr Amory, the Department of Agriculture had already embarked on the process of organising a public awareness campaign to educate the public on the measures that could be taken to curb the spread of the disease.
Meantime, Dr. Gene Pollard, Regional Plant Protection Officer of the FAO, based at the regional office in Barbados, at the end of a two day visit to Nevis, revealed that the disease had affected coconut trees islandwide but there was a concentration in the Pinneys Beach area.
He urged the agriculture officials on Nevis to embark on a serious public awareness campaign, since it was obvious to him that many persons he had spoken to believed that a previous hurricane was responsible for the increasing number of headless coconut trees (telephone pole condition) on the island. He said the awareness campaign would assist the Ministry of Agriculture to fight against the disease.
Another important course of action Dr Pollard said was the need for the aggressive rouging out of affected trees as far as possible “because in removing these trees and destroying them then you are decreasing the pathogen or the infection pressures, you are removing the source of the disease organism,” he explained but hastened to add that the Ministry may encounter difficulties since many of the affected trees he had seen were on abandoned estates and private properties.
Notwithstanding, Dr. Pollard said there was existing legislation which made provision for the authorities to go into properties and do what they had to in order to combat the disease but he had reservations that the Administration would not want to utilise the legislative route.
In the medium to long term he said what needed to be done was an active replanting programme though it was not something that could be done overnight or in the next week or month.
“Coconut is a plant that takes long to come to maturity. We have to identify sources of tolerant material, we will liaise with Jamaica, there is a Coconut Industry Board in Jamaica for example who has been involved in this work there are also countries in Asia and in Africa which are also involved in similar work on the management of Lethal Yellowing. So we would have to identify where the likely source of such material is. It would have to be brought into the country. A nursery or nurseries would have to be set up where these seed nuts can be grown and eventually put back out into the field.
“So we are looking at really a long term process but in the short term, we will have a public awareness campaign and starting to cut out diseased trees lowering the infection pressure and for the medium to the long term maybe looking at the replanting of coconut trees. As I said there is no immediate cure for this,” he said.
As a result of his visit to Nevis, Dr Pollard said he would look into the type of assistance the FAO would be able to give to Nevis in managing the pest. He gave the undertaking that he would make recommendations to his organisation so that the Lethal Yellowing problem could fall into a Technical Cooperation Programme of the FAO. If approved by the head office in Rome, he said the FAO could offer technical assistance through the development of an emergency project to assist with the management of the disease.

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