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Agriculture ministry gets $5 million in lab upgrades – Trinidad and Tobago Newsday


From left, UWI St Augustine director of graduate studies and research Prof Duraisamy Saravanakumar, Ministry of Agriculture’s chief technical officer Denny Dipchansingh, Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture delegate Diana Francis and UWI St Augustine Dean of the Faculty of Food and Agriculture Prof Mark Wuddivira at the opening of the Plant Health Diagnostic Training at the St Augustine campus on June 10. PHOTO BY JOSETTE DEONANAN – Josette Nicole Deonanan

The Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries has received $5m for laboratory upgrades to enhance plant health diagnostics.

The investment was announced by chief technical officer Denny Dipchansingh on Monday at opening of the University of the West Indies (UWI) St Augustine’s plant health diagnostic training programme.

“This investment, combined with the capacity-building training we are embarking on, will bring us closer to our goal of receiving ISO certification for these laboratories.”

Dipchansingh said agricultural diseases and pests do not recognise borders and the impact of an outbreak can be devastating locally, regionally and globally. He said that globally, countries are investing in advanced diagnostic techniques to safeguard their agricultural sectors.

“For instance, nations in Europe and North America have integrated cutting-edge molecular technologies into their plant health diagnostics, enabling rapid response to potential threats and thereby ensuring food security and economic stability.”

The Caribbean, he said, must align with these standards to protect its agriculture sector.

“By adopting similar advanced technologies and achieving international certifications, we can ensure our agricultural products meet the highest standards, facilitating smoother trade and enhancing our food security.”

Director of graduate studies and research, Prof Duraisamy Saravanakumar, underscored the urgency of staying ahead of new plant diseases.

“When there is a change in rainfall pattern, temperature, relative humidity, and other factors including changes in cultivation conditions and introduction of new (crop) varieties, there is a huge possibility for occurrence of new pestilent diseases. We need knowledge and information to better diagnose those diseases.”

Saravanakumar also noted past training efforts including programs in 2016 and 2018 focussing on agriculturally important micro-organisms and eco-friendly pest management, respectively.

The training, funded by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), is part of the ministry’s broader strategy to reduce reliance on international laboratories and enhance local diagnostic capabilities.

IICA representative Diana Francis said that over a two-week period, 20 technicians will learn to accurately diagnose plant diseases and pests and how to implement effective management strategies to mitigate their impact.

The training agenda will include sessions on crop production, crop protection, plant breeding and a focus on molecular diagnostics using Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) technology.

Experts from UWI’s faculty of food and agriculture will conduct the training.

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