Jamaican crops threatened by pest

KINGSTON, Jamaica: Authorities are moving quickly to contain and eradicate a pest that threatens to destroy many of the nation’s crops.

The Papaya Mealybug, which was detected in the Caribbean in 1993, has been found in Jamaica. The Ministry of Agriculture has announced it is not sure how the pest has gotten into the country.

To date, it has been detected on seven types of plants: fruit trees like the West Indian cherry and papaya; ornamentals such as hibiscus and frangipani; legumes such as gungo peas; root crops like cassava; and forest trees (teak).

“We are well aware of the critical nature of this new outbreak in Kingston and the scope to spread, and as such has been enforcing an integrated pest management to contain the pest,” the ministry said in a statement.

“Among the measures being enforced are pruning and field sanitation, releasing predator and parasitoids (tiny wasps) and the importation of natural enemies from certified rearing facilities. The natural enemies are no threat to humans as they feed only on the Mealybug and have successfully reduced its population. Once released, the wasp is monitored to determine impact and dispersion.”

The Papaya Mealybug originated in Mexico, where it developed alongside natural enemies and was first identified in 1992. It is polyphagous (can subsist on a variety of food sources) and can cause the curling and twisting of leaves. In addition, it can cause fruit blemish and sooty mould, as well as stunt the growth of flowers.

The insect’s host range includes more than 60 species of plants including cassava, papaya, beans, eggplant, melons, hibiscus, plumeria, pepper, sweet potato, tomato, citrus, mango and sour sop.


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