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FORTY-TWO members of the Central St Catherine Coffee Growers Co-operative Society Limited recently benefited from a one-day training session on how to control slugs and snails on their farms.
The training, conducted on a three-and-a-half-acre farm located in Ewarton, St Catherine, owned by Julia English, was a component of the Competitive Coffee Enterprise Project (CCEP), operated between Guatemala and Jamaica and funded by the Common Fund for Commodity and the International Coffee Organization.
"What we are seeking is to create the awareness among the farmers that the snails and slugs we rarely pay any attention to are a having a devastating effect on the production and the productivity of our coffee," explained Dennis Bryan, assistant project coordinator, CCEP.
The Cooperative is one of three such organisations in Jamaica benefiting from the CCEP. Members of the Frankfield Coffee and Cocoa Co-operative in Clarendon and the Cave Valley Multi-purpose Co-operative in St Ann, the other two participating organisations, were also beneficiaries of training conducted in their parishes.
Louis Moises Peñeate, pests and disease plant protection specialist, Anna Café, Guatemala, who spearheaded the training, said he observed that several farmers were afraid to touch the pests.
"They don't need to be afraid of catching them because it is better to catch them and destroy them than use pesticides," he explained.
In the past, famers used the chemical metaldehyde to control snails and slugs on their farms. However, being highly toxic, the substance has been banned. So, the cultivators have been advised to reap the pests and destroy them by using soap water, or by burying.
"It is recommended that after they reap the snails or slugs, they put them into a container of water, add a small amount of soap powder or liquid to the water," said Bryan. "The soap will cause the water to become heavy and aid in the drowning process. They should cover the container to prevent them from crawling out."
He added: "They should dig a hole at least 1ftx1ft wide and 1ft deep and place the snails in, cover the hole and compress the soil in the hole to make it firm so that the slugs and snails will not escape, and to prevent offensive odour."
With regard to some of the findings on English's farm, some 1,640 slugs and snails were harvested.
"That would matriculate in one year to 656,000 slugs and snails, if no control is done," explained Bryan. "Two species of the slugs and snails were identified, the white ones were found on the tall tress, the brown ones don't climb and are mostly found under shrubs and stones, and in the cooler places," he added.
It's for this reason that Peñeate is encouraging the coffee growers to keep their farms clean, as this will decrease the prospect of the infestation of the pests.
"The slugs are not happy when these areas are cleaned because it allows more heat to reach them, so they prefer to be in the cool; cleaning will cause the slugs to become hot and sweaty, and slugs do not want to be hot and sweaty," said Peñeate.
English expressed appreciation to the Coffee Industry Board (CIB) for selecting her farm to host the training.
"This was a great experience and I sincerely hope that the CIB, which has helped us to kill the pests that destroy our crops, will not leave us high and dry and will come back to see how we are doing," said English.
The assurance for follow-up was given by Bryan, who also serves the CIB in the capacity of regional advisory officer, northern.
Meanwhile, chairman of the Central St Catherine Coffee Growers Co-operative Society Limited, Vinroy Lindo, said the training was critical to their operation.
"Pest control is one of the very important means of getting good production and quality coffee, so this session on how to control the slugs and snails without using chemical is very important," he told The Gleaner.