The Government of Barbados is continuing its efforts at making farmers and extension officers aware of best practices for the management and multiplication of sweet potato planting material, obtained through tissue culture with the staging of three day workshop. Tissue culture involves the use of small pieces of clean plant cells and tissues which are grown under sterile conditions in test tubes containing nutrient material. The workshop is being hosted from Monday, August 17 to Wednesday, August 19, by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security (MAFS), in collaboration with the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and The University of the West Indies (UWI), Cave Hill Campus.
During the virtual workshop, several important topics will be discussed including Virus Disease Problems in Sweet Potato by Dr Angela Alleyne, Senior Lecturer in Biochemistry, UWI, Cave Hill, Quality of Planting Material and Nursery Production by Dr Francis Lopez, Senior Agronomist, UWI, Cave Hill and Phytosanitary Considerations For Selection of Planting Materials by Dr Alleyne and Senior Agricultural Officer, Michael James.
The workshop will also focus on Training in Nursery Production and Selection of Sweet Potato Planting Material. While the virtual sessions on August 17 and 18 provided technical guidance, a more practical approach (demonstration) is being taken on Wednesday, August 19 at the field station of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, Graeme Hall. An estimated 60 persons are expected to participate (25 females and 35 males), including about 8-10 extension / research officers and the two Experts (Agronomist and Microbiologist) from UWI.
In his remarks at the Opening session of the Workshop, Acting Chief Agricultural Officer of the MAFS, Mr. Leslie Brereton highlighted the fact that the production of disease free planting material for sweet potato is a collaborative effort of farmers, MAFS,FAO,UWI and plant nurseries. However, the role of the farmers in this project is pivotal in the control, and ultimately the eradication of the virus complex that could become a threat to sweet potato production in the country. He stated, “Once the Tissue Culture Laboratory provides farmers with virus free planting material, it is incumbent on these farmers to establish sterile spaces for bulking the material, while removing and destroying infected materials from fields in a manner to destroy all viruses. As long as these steps are taken, then field production of sweet potato will increase in the future”.
Meanwhile, the FAO Plant Production and Protection Officer, Vyju Lopez, is pleased that the training, which had to be postponed in March due to COVID-19 will now finally take place. She stated, “The training will benefit sweet potato farmers via the availability of clean planting material, thereby increasing their productivity. It is also hoped that some farmers will take up the opportunity to become entrepreneurs, producing clean sweet potato planting materials for sale to other farmers”.
The project, “Protocols for the Conservation and Propagation of Sweet Potato Planting Material through Tissue Culture” which is funded by FAO under its Technical Cooperation Programme commenced implementation during the second quarter of 2019 and will conclude in December 2020. Meanwhile, it has enabled technicians of the MAFS’ tissue culture laboratory to hone their skills in propagating good quality planting materials. Guidance provided to the farmers and extension officers in the use of the propagated materials for the multiplication of clean, disease-free sweet potato planting material is expected to result in improved production capacities of the farmers, thereby improving their livelihoods.
For more information:
FAO Plant Production and Protection Officer
FAO National Communications Consultant