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York Castle High to supply farmers with disease-free ginger plantlets

BY RENAE DIXON
Observer staff reporter
dixonr@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, September 18, 2017

A move to produce disease-free ginger is shaping up to be a success, principal of York Castle High School in Brown's Town, St Ann, Raymond Treasure, has said.

Ginger production, some farmers contend, has taken a major blow in recent times. In fact, the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries in 2016 said that Jamaica's ginger production continued to suffer from the rhizome rot disease which damaged the industry in the 1990s, although there was some level of recovery in 2013.

Since that time, the Promotion of Regional Opportunities for Produce through Enterprises and Linkages (PROPEL) has been introducing farmers to the tissue culture technology which should result in the production of disease-free plantlets for the crop.

York Castle High is now a part of that mission to produce disease-free ginger plantlets, which would then be supplied to local farmers who have had to battle the root disease, which the Rural Agricultural Development Authority said has been found in all major ginger-production areas in Jamaica and is considered one of the major limiting actors of ginger production in the island. The disease can be spread by infected seed pieces from the previous crop.

“The aim is to grow disease-free ginger and supply to local farmers,” Treasure told the Jamaica Observer North & East during a recent visit to the school.

He said the school started out with two shoots in each bag which has since been generating more shoots which will soon be passed on to farmers. He shared, also, that the amount of plantlets now in the school's greenhouse can plant several acres of ginger.

The school now has approximately 1,300 bags of specially planted ginger shoots which, Treasure said, could be the solution to issues affecting farmers.

A high-tech irrigation system is used when sowing the ginger plantlets, which are planted in bags in coconut husk instead of regular soil. The method forms part of the tissue culture technology which is the growth of tissues or cells separate from the organism.

Treasure pointed out that it is not only educational for students who currently tend to the plants, but could see Jamaica once again producing ginger in large quantities.

“When we are finished we can supply disease-free ginger shoots to local farmers. This is a project between Perishables Jamaica Limited, Propel Jamaica and Jamaica Business Fund,” Treasure said.

The school is expected to benefit from the programme through the sale of the plants, while farmers are expected to benefit from more resilient plantlets.

“This is the way forward for the ginger industry,” Treasure added.