The Ministry of Agriculture through the assistance of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Technical Cooperation Programme will begin a three-week long training in the shoot tip grafting technique. This training seeks to increase local capacity to manage the debilitating Citrus Greening Disease as well as provide disease-free planting material. The training will be facilitated by Dr. Olga Mas Camacho, a shoot tip grafting consultant from Cuba.
Shoot tip grafting is a laboratory process which has been proven worldwide to be a significant method for obtaining pathogen-free citrus. The technique was developed in 1975 and involves cutting the microscopic growing tip of a young shoot and grafting this small tip to an incision in a toothpick sized seedling. Speaking on Tuesday at a consultation meeting with farmers, processors and other stakeholders, at the Bodles Research Station in Old Harbour, Dr. Camacho said that shoot tip grafting has several advantages. Chief among them is that the plant is identical to the mother tree, there’s no juvenility period thus quick bearing time and no abnormal plants have been detected resulting from shoot tip grafting. Likewise, she said that shoot tip grafting is a fairly cost-effective propagation technique. Dr. Camacho is expected to shoot tip graft seven local varieties and if successful will be used as the mother plants to supply budwood to the local citrus industry.
In the meanwhile, citrus plants already under protected cover at the Bodles Research Station, that have not been exposed to the citrus greening pathogen will be tested to confirm that they are free of this pathogen and budwood will be made available to the citrus industry until the shoot-grafted plants are ready in 2-3 years time. The three-week training beginning on Monday, February 20, 2012 will include individuals from the Bodles Research Station, the Scientific Research Council, the University of the West Indies and private stakeholders. This training is the latest in a series of activities to take place as part of a US $480,000 agreement signed between the Ministry and the FAO in November 2010. The Citrus Greening Disease has been threatening the local citrus industry since 2009. The Ministry in 2011 ordered that all citrus nurseries be closed as part of efforts to tackle the disease. The citrus industry has an estimated total value of approximately J$4 billion.
Dr. Lisa Myers-Morgan, Senior Research Director at the Montpelier Research Station and National Project Coordinator said, “With these efforts, I hope that we can see the citrus industry re-bound from this situation.”
The FAO programme is scheduled to end in October 2012.