My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: How CARDI's Salt Water Dasheen and Agricultural Towers help Pacific Islands and Jamaica in a Drought

Saturday, November 28, 2015

How CARDI's Salt Water Dasheen and Agricultural Towers help Pacific Islands and Jamaica in a Drought

“The aim of the centre is to assist Pacific Island countries and territories to conserve the region’s resources, and to make them available to the when they are required by farmers in particular. Conservation is the core business of the centre, with priority given to a number of crops such as dasheen which we call taro, yam, cassava and breadfruit”

Associate Programme Coordinator, ARD Policy of the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation Samson Vilvil Fare speaking at the Caribbean Pacific Agri-food forum in Barbados about Dasheen

Jamaica may soon have a variety of Dasheen that's drought-resistant thanks to shared research from the Pacific.

This new variety of dasheen was introduced during a Caribbean Pacific Agri-food forum in Barbados as reported in the article “'Smart' dasheen resistance to drought”, published November 04, 2015, The Jamaica Observer.

Revealed at the Caribbean Pacific Agri-food forum in Barbados by the Associate Programme Coordinator, ARD Policy of the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation Samson Vilvil Fare, this very important plant is doing well so far in testing in Trinidad and Tobago, quote: “This crop is already tested in the Caribbean, it was planted in Trinidad and the feedback is very positive. Dasheen is a main staple for us and we eat a lot of it, so something had to be done to ensure that it will survive long dry season that is now associated with the impact of climate change”.

The new variety of dasheen was developed for the islands in the Pacific after years of study by CARDI (Caribbean Agriculture Research and Development Institute). The Pacific islanders called dasheen “taro” and the new variety can withstand prolonged drought and grow in highly saline soil.

Perfect for islands that have no running water dependent on seasonal rainfall that's not predictable or consistent and only have access to seawater for agricultural and domestic use. The plant is now accepted for use in the Pacific Islands and research has already begun in the developement of a new variety of Yam that is also drought resists as well as able to grow in salty, sandy soil and use seawater.

Dasheen that grows with less fresh water – More plant needed that grow with less

According to the WRA (Water Resources Authority) Jamaica uses only 25% of available groundwater resources i.e. wells and 11% of accessible surface water resources i.e. rivers as noted in the article “Jamaica’s aging water systems falter under intense heat and drought”, published November 18th 2015 By Zadie Neufville, Caribbean 360.

With this fact it mind, the necessity of making a dasheen plant that grows with less water might seem a tad odd.  But the Caribbean and Jamaica share the same climate as well as the same problems as it relates to the scarcity of water resources. Thus developing such water efficient plants as well as sharing our knowledge with our Pacific neighbours will help us to identify other plants that can be modified with this very desirable trait.

While there is a need for the NWC (National Water Commission) to tap into these other water resources and also introduce water recycling as described in my blog article entitled “Water Wastage at MICO - How Waste Water Recycling and Rainwater Harvesting benefits Agriculture” we also need more plant varieties that can grow with either less water or water that’s saline.

Samson Vilvil Fare drives home this point about the plant and out shared problem with climate change, quote: The dasheen we develop taste the same, look the same and took the same amount of time for maturity and so all that will be required is for farmers here to plant them. “Dasheen needs water to grow and mature but this variety needs less water, so under drought condition it will be able to produce and if sea level was to rise where its planted and the salt water gets into the soil, that variety will not died because it’s also resistance to high salinity levels”.

Desalination is too expensive – Transgenic salt water loving plants and Agricultural towers needed

Desalination is definitely not on the books. So making plants that can grow with Salt water gives Caribbean and Pacific islands more options to play with.

It will also allow us to fulfill our export obligations, such as exporting hot peppers and dasheen to Trinidad and Tobago as noted in the article “Jamaica to Export Hot Pepper and Dasheen to Trinidad”, published March 24, 2015 By Marlon Tingling, the Jamaica Information Service.

We are currently facing the reality of climate change as the sea gets close each year. Aside from more usage of water resources, recycling water and super-efficient plants, we also need to look at the idea of agricultural towers that use aquaponics in vertical towers to use land space efficiently to grow food as explained in my blog article entitled “How IGES Canada Ltd Vertical Hydroponic Aquaponic Towers make low cost Organic foods”. 

Developing transgenic plants that can survive with less water in salty soil is a long term solution for Jamaica's drought problem and coming battle with the sea.

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