Campus News

Life Sciences research team wins EMA Green Leaf Award for environment-friendly crop production methods

The Plant Microbe Biotechnology Group, a research team from UWI St Augustine’s Department of Life Sciences, has won the Environmental Management Authority’s (EMA) Green Leaf award for their research on the theme “Developing sustainable agricultural management strategies to improve vegetable production towards self-sufficiency and food security in the Caribbean region”.

They received their award at an EMA ceremony streamed on April 22, 2021. The Green Leaf Awards 2020 coincided with both Earth Day and the EMA’s 25th anniversary. The group’s work was one of 30 submissions nominated in seven categories. It consisted of the development of integrated disease management practises for vegetable crops using biological agents, including seaweed-based biostimulants (products that increase plant growth).

Explaining the purpose of their sustainable agricultural management strategies, Professor Jayaraj Jayaraman, the team lead, said:

“The use of chemicals needs to be limited to one third of its current level by incorporating alternative treatments and approaches through integrated disease management/integrated pest management (IDM/IPM) systems which are guided by environmental principles and standards.”

The team, he explained, has developed innovative crop protection methods which were extensively tested and demonstrated in farmers’ fields.

“These protection strategies are more sustainable, environmentally sound, and economically viable,” said Professor Jayaraman.

Several farmers and agricultural personnel in the Caribbean were trained on the updated crop management technologies through their project outreach activities.

The group also includes fellow team lead Dr Adesh Ramsubhag, as well as Mr Omar Ali, Dr Antonio Ramkissoon, Dr Chinnaraja Chinnadurai, Dr Ramjegathesh Rajendran and Dr Aidan Farrell.

Their outstanding work over the past eight years has helped them obtain research grants from the African, Caribbean, and Pacific – European Union (ACP-EU); the Conservation, Food and Health (CFH) Foundation; the Canada-based company Acadian SeaPlants Ltd; and UWI St Augustine’s Research and Development Impact (RDI) Fund.

UWI TODAY first covered the work of the group in 2017,, which includes very promising research on antibiotic-producing microorganisms, novel antimicrobials and natural products identified from T&T’s pristine environments.

Recently, they developed a novel seaweed extract-based biostimulant that not only protects crop plants from pests and disease, but also dramatically stimulates their growth.

The group used the latest technology, including transcriptomics and metagenomics, in testing the efficacy of the formula.

“We were also able to show that our seaweed extract had a beneficial effect in stimulating microorganisms in the soil, on the roots and in the plants. Hence there might be indirect beneficial effect by the microorganisms on the plant growth processes. This is a completely new phenomenon observed in a seaweed-based biostimulant,” said Dr Ramsubhag.

Omar Ali, a PhD student and the lead researcher on the seaweed research project, revealed that they had seen “a significant increase in produce yield (up to 50 percent or more) in addition to quality improvement in most of our field trials using this new seaweed extract formula”.

The group continues their work on natural products, biological plant farming, and environmental conservation research with the goal of contributing to sustainability, maintaining a strong research culture among students, and helping T&T through scientific innovation-based growth and technology development.

The 2020 Green Leaf Awards ceremony can be viewed on the EMA’s YouTube channel at