July 2015

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Amar Lall, a farmer from Macoya who gave remarks at the opening of the project, Promoting Agriculturally Important Microorganisms (AIMS) - to address the challenges in Food Safety and Food Security in the Caribbean, said that he has expectations of what the project can do for his livelihood.

The UWI-TT RDI Fund sponsored project on Promoting Agriculturally Important Microorganisms (AIMS) to address the challenges in Food Safety and Food Security in the Caribbean was launched on 25 June by Dr. Isaac Bekele, Dean, Faculty of Food and Agriculture at UWI. The launch was attended by farmers, vegetable producers, Director from the Research Division, Ministry of Food Production, Deputy Director Research (Crops), Deputy Director Extension, Regional Administration North, Agricultural Extension Officers, NAMDEVCO, Representatives from regional organizations like USDA, CABI, IICA, CARDI, FAO, the Campus Registrar Richard Saunders, Academic, Technical staff and students from the Faculty of Food and Agriculture, Faculty of Science and Technology, Cocoa Research Unit, UWI, St. Augustine.

Mr Lall went on to explain that the repeated application of pesticides to his crops was not able to contain the pests and diseases so he welcomes The UWI community’s interest in working closely with the farming community to solve their problems to ensure food security and reduce the cost of application of pesticides. He also emphasized that the farmers need to be educated on early diagnosis of plant pest and disease so as to deal with holistic approaches.

Dr. Gaius Eudoxie, Lecturer (Soil Science), Department of Food Production, Faculty of Food and Agriculture, chaired the session with briefing about the significance of the project in the region, more specifically the relevance of soils component in the project.

Professor Neela Badrie, Head, Department of Food Production welcomed the gathering and mentioned the suitability and relevance of the AIMS project within the UWI strategic plan 2012-2017. Prof. Badrie reminded the audience of the UN definition of food security: ‘An access to safe and secure food is a basic human right and thus each country has a responsibility to address food safety issues’. During her opening remarks, she quoted the reports that reminded all that there are unacceptable levels of pesticide residue in some of the food commodities in the Central America.

Dr. Saravanakumar Duraisamy, Senior Lecturer (Plant Pathology), and Team Leader of the AIMS Project on his introduction to the project spoke about the Plantwise programme - a UK report on the crop production losses to the value of US$ 240 million due to pests and diseases attack worldwide; and that for every 1% reduction in pests and diseases, it is estimated that we would be able to feed an extra 25 million people. Dr. Saravanakumar Duraisamy acknowledged the UWI-TT RDI Fund and thanked Prof. Clement Sankat, Campus Principal for project approval.

Mr. Assim Dilbar, Director, Research Division, Ministry of Food Production on his special remarks mentioned the Ministry of Food Production’s involvement in the promotion of bio-fertilizers especially VAM in corn through Mexicon collaboration and emphasized the need for good agricultural practices and crop integrated practices to manage the pest and disease problems. The Director has also give insights into the research taking place in the Ministry of Food Production in the use of Metarhizium on the red palm mite control under laboratory conditions and wished the project for successful implementation.

As part of the promotional activity and more importantly to sensitize the students, research scholars and interested groups on the utility of beneficial micro-organisms in agriculture, there was an AIMS logo design contest. The AIMS research team selected the logo for the project with the slogan of safe and secured food which was submitted by Carla Washington Mclean. Her award was presented on the same day of the project launch by Dr. Isaac Bekele, Dean, Faculty of Food and Agriculture.

Dr. Isaac Bekele on his launch address emphasized the necessity for food security and self-sustainability in the region. He also stressed the importance of growing the network between Institutions, Extension Officials, Ministry of Food Production and Regional Organizations. He emphasized the need to sensitize the graduate students’ research in the basic and applied aspects of agriculture so as to address the challenges in food security of the region. He mentioned that the Faculty received 6 projects to the funding of TT$ 2 million from the 3rd call proposals from the UWI-TT RDI Fund. He ended his remarks by saying that he appreciated the efforts of faculty members in bringing out quality publications and marching towards quality research in the region.

Dr. Wendy-Ann Isaac, Lecturer (Weed Science), proposed the vote of thanks recognizing the efforts taken by the students and staff of the Department of Food Production and Faculty of Food and Agriculture to organize the launch.


The UWI-TT RDI fund recently sanctioned the project on Promoting Agriculturally Important Microorganisms (AIMS) to address the challenges in Food Safety and Food Security in the Caribbean to the Department of Food Production, UWI, St. Augustine. The project will be for three years commencing from May 2015 to April 2018. The AIMS project is envisioned to identify, characterize and promote agriculturally important indigenous microorganisms as bio-control agents and bio-fertilizers in the perspective of an effective plant disease and soil fertility management in an effort to reduce the use of hazardous pesticides in the region.

Plant diseases are the major constrains in vegetable production of the Caribbean and viewed as the vital challenges to be addressed to ensure food security of the region. Further, an indiscriminate and intensive use of hazardous pesticides to control pests and diseases have revealed the great concerns over environmental and human health hazards posing serious threats to the safe food especially in vegetables where most of them are consumed without processing and or consumed as raw materials. In addition to this, the continuous and intensive application of inorganic fertilizers has deteriorated soil biota thereby reducing the yield potential in the Tropical agriculture. These practices warrant the development of locally adaptive novel and sustainable strategies to ensure food safety and food security of the region. One such holistic approach which is foreseen to address the above said issues in a sustainable manner will be the promotion of Agriculturally Important Micro-organisms (AIMS) which has so far received very little attention in the region. Thus the current proposal justifies and demand the basic and applied research on developing potential AIMS suitable for the tropical agriculture.

The main aspect of the project will be to explore native micro-organisms with the perspective of developing it as the elite bio-control and bio-fertilizer strains for quality vegetable production system in Trinidad and Tobago so as to reduce the use of chemical pesticides in the region. The project will utilize various traditional pathological, biochemical and advanced molecular techniques to track novel elite microorganisms to thwart pests and diseases in the vegetable cultivation and to fix and facilitate the mobilization of the nutrients in the soils to improve soil fertility ultimately to increase plant growth and yield.

The potential of AIMS will be demonstrated in the vegetable crops viz., hot pepper, lettuce, okra and bodi as model systems at greenhouse and field conditions. The utility of AIMS in vegetable crops will be demonstrated by the conduct of field day and awareness on AIMS will be created among the farmers, nursery entrepreneurs, vegetable growers and protected cultivation systems by the conduct of workshops and trainings.

This would also be a viable input in future to the organic vegetable producers, home gardeners and school gardens for plant disease and soil fertility management as it would reduce the risk of pesticide exposure to common public and school children as well.

Email: aimsproject.uwirdi@gmail.com

Launch photos available in the following link: https://goo.gl/photos/qTs9sAB79DSKt3vG8