Building a climate resilient agriculture sector

Training young scientists in modelling and data management

The University of the West Indies Mona (Departments of Physics and Life Sciences) in collaboration with the Department of Life Sciences, UWI St. Augustine hosted a two-week crop modelling workshop, “Training Modules in Crop Simulation Modeling, Climate Change and Livestock Impact Assessment,” from July 16-27, 2018. The training was delivered by leading regional and international experts in the areas of agriculture, crop modelling, climate variability and climate change.

 

During week one, participants were introduced to climate and modelling basics in preparation for the advanced DSSAT module which was delivered in week 2. The training was intended to build the capacity of key public and private sector stakeholders within the agriculture sector, nationally and regionally, to conduct crop simulation modelling using the FAO AquaCrop Model and the DSSAT Model. In addition to being trained in the use of these models, the course sought to enhance understanding of climate change basics and how climate variability and change is impacting agriculture. It was intended to provide a basic introduction to crop modelling, and its application to Caribbean Crops.

 

The workshop targeted agronomists, extension officers, farmers, researchers (including graduate students), Agro-meteorologists, representatives from Universities and the Ministries of Agriculture and Fisheries. Seventeen persons attended in week 1 and 26 persons in week 2. A pre and post Knowledge, Attitude and Practice Survey was conducted and it showed that there was considerable knowledge uptake and that the training was generally well-received.

 

The workshop served to highlight the need for greater focus, and resources to be put towards advancing and strengthening crop modelling efforts in the region. Recommendations in this regard were for:

▪ Development of a crop modelling consortium/group to spur developments locally and in the region

▪ Development of a regional crop modelling agenda

▪ Development and implementation of research projects geared at filling critical data gaps,

▪ Furthering capacity building and increasing knowledge sharing.

 

The project equipped CARDI Scientists who participated in the training sessions with appropriate computers to support the crop modelling activities. The lap tops were outfitted with the relevant programmes that enabled the scientists to store, collate and process crop data in the DSATT Crop Modelling Programme.

 

Expanding seed production

Agriculture is a climate sensitive sector and small-scale farmers in particular are at the frontlines of climate change impacts. Thanks to the IDB-executed Pilot Program for Climate Resilience (PPCR) funded by the Climate Investment Fund (CIF) and the EU-funded Agriculture Policy Programme (APP), the Jamaica’s agriculture sector is becoming more climate resilient.

 

CARDI and the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries (MICAF) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to expand and refurbish the seed storage facility at Bodles Agricultural Research Station, St Catherine. The re-designed 1000 -sq. ft (92.9 -sq metre) facility was completed in March 2019 and houses micro-propagation, growth chambers for vegetative seed (tissue culture plantlets), improved and expanded shelf space for storing true seed and a cold room. A seed batch dryer will soon be added, further enhancing the integrity and viability of the seeds produced at the facility.

 

At Bodles, both true and vegetative climate resilient seeds for Jamaica and CARICOM Member States will be stored.

 

The expanded facility is now positioned to assist countries impacted by disasters to quickly restart their agricultural production by multiplying seeds of key staples. Seed multiplication will be accelerated prior to the start of the hurricane season.

 

CARDI will hand over the facility to MICAF in October 2019.

 

Planning for drought

A drought tolerant split plot (irrigated versus non- irrigated) experiment was established at the CARDI Demonstration and Training Centre on the Mona Campus. Both the irrigated and non-irrigated sections, contained four randomized complete blocks; each containing four randomized treatments (sweet potato accession Clarendon, Ganja, Uplifta, Yellow Belly). Each treatment was 3ft x 15ft (1m x 5m) and contained 30 plants each.

 

Data will be collected over a 5-month period and will constitute 5 cycles. From each treatment four random plants (sample) will be harvested; a total 256 crop samples per cycle. Data will be collected on the following:

▪ Canopy cover

▪ Total weight of the vines and tubers

▪ Fresh weight of the vines

▪ Dry weight of the vines

▪ Total number of roots

▪ Length of the roots

▪ Fresh weight of the roots

▪ Dry weight of the roots

 

Upon analysis, the data sets, will be introduced into the AquaCrop  and DSATT Programmes to demonstrate how crop modelling (crop models) can be used as an economic and effective means of quantifying climate impacts. The study will also look at methods of improving field management practices, including but not limited to fertilizer treatments, irrigation, pest and disease management.

 

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