Regional symposium on the control and management of the South American Palm Weevil shares experiences from the Latin America and Caribbean countries

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On 17 April, 2024 the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) hosted a Regional Symposium on Red Ring Disease and South American Palm Weevil Monitoring and Management in Coconuts in Port of Spain, Trinidad. Financed by the European Union (EU) and CARIFORUM, under the Alliances for Coconut Industry Development, Expansion and Enhanced Support in the Caribbean project, the symposium targeted researchers, farmers, agroprocessors and technical staff from the Ministries of Agriculture across the Region. Over than one hundred and eighty persons attend the hybrid event. The aim was to highlight control strategies for the South American Palm Weevil (SAPW) and management of the Red Ring Disease based on research conducted by CARDI and MALF in Trinidad and Tobago as well as deepen collaborative linkages with other research institutions in Latin America who have been working in this area.

 

Speaking at the Opening Ceremony, Ben Morrison from the International Trade Centre – the co-implementing partner for this project praised the resilience of Caribbean coconut farmers while calling for wider collaborative approaches for managing pests and diseases as they remain major barriers to the growth and expansion of the industry.

 

His Excellency, Mr Peter Cavendish, Ambassador and Head of the European Delegation to Trinidad and Tobago said that the EU considers the coconut industry as a facilitator for the much[1]needed transition towards more sustainable food systems, sustainable farm incomes, and improved product choices, aligning with the Farm to Fork strategy of the European Green Deal. He also reiterated that the The EU’s support for Caribbean agriculture and food production will continue, with a €19 million program already in the early stages of implementation to boost sustainable production and enhance food security, including developing value chains with the ITC.

 

Ansari Hosein, CARDI’s Executive Director, underscored the importance of partnerships, guided by a clear vision to achieving success. He also emphasised the importance of continuous investment in agriculture research – noting that without it ‘we are fighting a losing battle’ in the sector.

 

Philippe Agostini, Chairman of the Coconut Growers Association said that effective management of the Ring Disease requires a multi-faceted approach, including improved disease identification, targeted tree removal, and area-wide management strategies. He noted that with “sustained efforts and collaboration, it may be possible to revive the coconut industry in Trinidad and mitigate the devastating impacts of Red Ring Disease.” Pheromone-based trapping program shows promise, but its effectiveness is dependent on widespread adoption and coordination among all interest groups.

 

Senator the Honourable, Avinash Singh, Minister in the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries delivered the feature address and said that implementing a comprehensive strategy which addresses genetic diversity, pest management, climate change adaptation, replanting efforts, capacity building, and market development, will position the coconut industry to regain its prominence and contribute to the economic growth and food security of the nation. He praised the Regional project and the investments made towards the development of this important sector.

 

From the technical sessions that followed, participants gleaned a deeper understanding of the work agencies, like ChemTica, the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (EMBRAPA), CARDI and MALF have been doing to manage the weevil and the nematode.

 

In Costa Rica, Dr. Francisco Gonzales from ChemTica noted that mass trapping was effective in controlling the weevil population in oil palms by 80% and at present not one tree is lost to Red Ring Disease. He notes that while new trends and technologies may appear mass trapping continues to be the successful and convenient technique for controlling the pest.

 

Dr. Elio Cesar Guzzo from EMBRAPA said that while mass trapping using pheromone traps is a widely adopted strategy in Brazil. Entomopathogenic fungi like Beauveria bassiana and Metarhizium anisopliae are also employed through two methods – release of fungus[1]inoculated male weevils and self-disseminating fungus traps. Field trials have shown reductions of 58-76% in weevil populations using these approaches. They are also exploring the use of botanical extracts to kill nematodes in the soil.

 

CARDI and Ministry of Agriculture highlighted the research activities on the use of the improved funnel trap design for managing the SAPW and the use of Metarrhizium and Beauvaria bassiana to control the SAPW in Belize and Trinidad and Tobago respectively. From the trapping exercise conducted in Trinidad and Tobago, the team found Ryncholure pheromone combined with the ethyl acetate synergist (Rynchomagnet) and sugar cane was more efficient, trapping the weevils when compared to the traditional farmer treatments of Ryncholure pheromone combined with sugar cane and molasses. The traps positioned on the ground were also found to trap more weevils than the traditional traps placed 1.5 meters above the ground.

 

Following the Symposium participants got a first-hand view of the use the improved funnel traps to control the SAPW in the field as well as the opportunity to learn more about farmers’ experiences in managing the pest.

 

Since 2015, CARDI and ITC with the financial support from the European Union, ACP Secretariat and CARIFORUM have been working to strengthen the coconut value chain. Fast forward nine years later with a total investment of 9.3 million the project has laid a good foundation from which the development of the coconut industry can be accelerated and expanded.