Fruits and vegetables are very essential for the nutrition security of the peoples of the Caribbean. Accordingly, the Governments of the Region have identified them as part of the ‘Regional Food Basket’ and for which efforts are dedicated towards achieving ‘food sovereignty’. Therefore, CARDI attaches similar importance to the development of the fruits and vegetables agricultural sub-sector; they feature in the work programmes of seven of the eleven CARDI Units. The constituent activities of the programmes invariably involve evaluation, with the view to developing, and demonstrating and transferring appropriate technologies for production, quality control and investment profiles.
Highlights of Recent Activities
- In banana and plantain cultivation, Black Sigatoka Disease (BSD), caused by the fungal pathogen, Pseudocercospora fijiensis (previous named Mycosphaerella fijiensis), is devastating. Approximately 97% of all banana and plantain varieties grown in the Caribbean are susceptible to BSD. The disease is aggressive and challenging to control, resulting in significant yield loss and increased cost of production. Workshops were conducted in Dominica, Guyana, St Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines, to strengthen the capacity of Black Sigatoka Disease management in banana and plantain. You can review the Black-Sigatoka-Final-Report and the Integrated Disease Management Programme Executive Summary.
- The Grenada and St. Lucia CARDI Units are the primary locations for the maintenance, multiplication and distribution of fruit tree crops. There are a variety of fruits involved but the popular ones include sapodilla (Manilkara achras (Mill.) Fosberg), golden apple (Spondias cytherea L.), mangoes (Magnifera indica L.) West Indian cherry (Malpighia glabra L.), mandarin (Citrus reticulata Blanco) figs (Ficus carica L.), cashew nut (Anacardium ocidentale L.), pineapple (Ananas comosus Merr.), passion fruit (Passiflora edulis Sims.) and wax apple (Syzygium samarangense Merr.& Perry).
- In Dominica, work continues on the long term studies to identify the most suitable rootstock/scion combinations for the management of citrus trestiza virus (CTV) in various agro-ecological zones. The scion is ‘Tahiti lime’ (TL) and the three imported CTV resistant rootstocks are ‘Cleopatra Mandarin’ (CM), ‘Swingle Citrumelo’ (SC) and Citron ‘Carrizo’ (CC). Data collected so far, show that the CM/TL rootstock/scion combination has the most vigorous growth with consistently higher values for plant height, foliage height and foliage width.
During the past few years CARDI Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago have devoted considerable amount of effort on research and development of leafy vegetables – callaloo (Amaranth, Amaranthus sp) in Jamaica and cabbage and lettuce in Trinidad and Tobago. The Trinidad and Tobago Unit, together with CARDI St. Kitts and Nevis and St. Vincent and the Grenadines has also been working on non-leafy vegetables – tomatoes, sweet peppers, etc. The sterling dedicated Integrated Pest Management (IPM) work of CARDI Jamaica, in collaboration with its partners, has contributed significantly to the development of the export market for callaloo. The crop now enjoys preclearance status for shipments to the United States.
Two of the most important characteristics of vegetable production in the region are high labour intensity and high pesticide use, resulting in high chemical residues in the crops and the environment, in general. On the post harvest side, there appears to be growing demand for value added semi-processed vegetable products in some countries. The Institute’s work seeks to address these issues.
- The technology of threshold-based application of pesticides to manage vegetable pests developed in Jamaica was transferred to Trinidad and Tobago in 2007. A validation trial, concluded at the end of the year, confirmed that threshold-based application of biorational pesticides resulted in low diamond back moth numbers and high marketable heads of cabbage, than the farmer practice of almost weekly spraying.
- The Government of Jamaica decided to evaluate the commercial feasibility of the IPM package, including exclusion and threshold-based pesticide application, for producing the vegetable Amaranth, Amaranthus sp that was developed by CARDI under the IPM CRSP programme. In this regard, CARDI is currently engaged in a joint programme with the Ministry of Agriculture, Jamaica to conduct field trials.
- Amaranth is also becoming a crop of great promise in St Lucia. The demand for it has increased during the past few months. The CARDI Unit in St Lucia, drawing on the expertise of the resident Post Harvest Technologist to test out packaging design, has started packaging the chopped leaves and young stems in sealed polyethylene bags and selling them at the retail outlet of the St Lucia Marketing Board.
- Also in St Lucia, studies on fruit production of tomatoes (‘Heat Master’ well established in St Lucia and ‘Hybrid 61’ now being introduced by a seed merchant) in the dry season showed that there would be no economic advantage for farmers to switch from ‘Heat Master’ (which yielded 13.5 kg/plot of 7.5 m2) to ‘Hybrid 61’ (which yielded 11.5 kg/plot).
- Given the shortage and the high cost of labour in Trinidad and Tobago, the interventions at the Goldsborough Demonstration and Training Centre (GDTC) have started to focus more on labour saving technologies for the production of various crops, including vegetables. Observations were made on the use of Agritela 3210 NE, a polypropylene sheet, and vinyl sheeting, separately, as mulch in an effort to reduce weed management operations in the production of vegetables (cabbage, watermelon, lettuce, sweet pepper and egg plant). Both products showed promise in reducing the need for and, therefore, the cost of labour for weeding operations.
CARDI. 2008. Strengthening stakeholders capacity in the regional fruit and vegetable industry. St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago: Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute. CD-ROM
Conference hosted by CARICOM Secretariat, Common Fund for Commodities and, Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute, Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, 17 Mar 2008.
Presents proceedings the All ACP Agricultural Commodities Programme/Regional Fruits and Vegetables One -day meeting. The objective of the meeting is to discuss amongst fruit and vegetable producers/representatives, the status of the region’s fruit and vegetable industry, and plans for the formation of a regional fruit and vegetable commodity association. The sequel to the formation of the association would be its representation at the Caribbean leg of the All ACP Agricultural Commodities Programme workshop scheduled for April 2008 in Jamaica.