Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 3rd 2015 Contents SUNDAY 3rd may, 2015 -- UWI TODAY 13
Two years ago, The UWI began a project aimed to
re-engineer the local citrus industry, which has been
decimated by abandonment and low pro tability.
Under the supervision of the St Augustine Campus
Principal, Professor Clement Sankat and researcher Dr.
Govind Seepersad, Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Food
and Agriculture, a high-density citrus orchard was set up
at the Debe campus with funding from the Trinidad and
Tobago RDI Fund.
New eld architecture involves spacing of 2 metres
within the row and 7 metres between the rows. This is
geared at high levels of mechanization, from weed control
Faced with a shortage of plants, researchers also
decided to plant rootstock directly in the eld and graft in-
situ. This technique has two direct bene ts (i) it speeds up
production and (ii) it secures your plants against thieves.
Grafting in the eld also had some new advantages
in tree training where arching the branches generated
strong shoots from the new buds.
a New Citrus
Dr. Govind Seepersad checks out the rst citrus yields
at the Debe campus.
"These two pieces of technology [the irrigation systems
and the drones] put us on par with the best universities in the
world," says Dr. Seepersad, adding that they are also working
with the University of York in Canada.
According to Dean Bekele, the initial planning exercise for
the AIP was undertaken by a team of academics and engineers
from partnering institutions of the Chinese Agricultural
University (CAU) and the FFA in April 2014. The implementation
of the plan has been underway in a staggered mode. For
instance, a fruit orchard is being set up on about 10 acres at
Orange Grove in addition to specially designed greenhouses
of 2000m2 for testing and evaluation for the humid tropics.
The Faculty has already established a citrus orchard in Debe
on 8.5 acres; following a Brazilian model.
"We may be the originators of the Julie mango in the
world," says Dr. Seepersad, recalling that Caroni Ltd had a
mango orchard at La Gloria in Princes Town, but it no longer
exists. Mango is moving away from being one of the non-
traditional Caribbean food basket items, he says, for instance,
"the Israelis and Australians have been doing a lot of mango
research and are large in mangos." These initiatives contain
enormous potential for advancing the Trinidad and Tobago
agri-food sector's sustainable development agenda. However,
the Faculty is well aware there needs to be investment in
research and technology for the realization of the goal. With
investment in research and technology and the partnership
already in place, a strong foundation has been laid for
sustainable advancement. It is for this singular goal
that in December 2014, Professor K.E. Bingsheng,
President of the China Agricultural University and
Professor Clement Sankat, Principal of The UWI St.
Augustine Campus signed the implementation
agreement of the UWI-CAU Agricultural Innovation
"In order to further develop agricultural education,
research, experimentation and demonstration in
agriculture, the Parties will test new varieties, facilities,
equipment, technologies, concepts and models at
the Park. The Parties will also demonstrate cropping
patterns and production ows of distinctive crops
currently cultivated in Trinidad and Tobago," says the
The agreement also covers collaboration between
the parties in training graduate students at the master
and doctoral levels, and work on the possibility of the
award of joint or double degrees to the successful
candidates through a split-site engagement.
Dean Bekele says they are evaluating and testing
new crops from China: Chinese squash, peppers, bitter
gourd, ten varieties of corn and pumpkin while they
are waiting for the infrastructure to be set up.
"As part of partnership in training, two students
are currently at CAU pursuing the MSc degree in
plant breeding. Then they will return to pursue the
PhD programme in crop breeding and improvement
in FFA through joint CAU/FFA supervision in the AIP
facility. Currently, Cameedra Ram and Kezia Blackman
are engaged in this programme and we are making
arrangements to recruit three more candidates to join
the scheme from August 2015."
He is proud that the AIP will be technology-driven
at every stage of the production post-harvest chain.
He says that although the AIP is referenced as tied
to the East Campus, it encompasses the three UWI
farms -- Orange Grove, Debe and the Field Station
at Mt Hope -- totaling 305 acres of farm lands falling
under the management of the FFA. However, the
Dean expressed the need to further expand the
farm land area to facilitate hands on training of our
students as part of the University's commitment and
our e ort to prepare work-ready graduates. "We have
communicated this need to the relevant authority and
we await a response," he said.
The food security agenda of the country and the
region is tied to the presence of technology-pro cient,
entrepreneurial and dedicated agricultural graduates
interested in pursuing the business of agriculture,
operating in a venture capital environment suitable
for agribusiness development. The development
of the AIP will provide the technology resources
needed for the training and the extra land will
provide a useful input for students to develop critical
farming skills utilizing technology while honing their
"Let us make this happen, it is within grasp," says
romised, and nearly three decades later, tangible results are about to be seen. Within the next few years, Orange
n as The UWI's east campus. The AIP, one of a kind in the region, will occupy all of the 200 acres provided by the
es that will stimulate both insiders and outsiders.
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