NAREI back­ing sweet potato chips project

Stabroek News - - NEWS -

Ray­burn Jones is one of a com­mu­nity of farm­ers ply­ing their trade at Mocha on the East Bank of De­mer­ara with­out the sort of high-pro­file pub­lic­ity usu­ally as­so­ci­ated with farm­ing in some of Guyana’s more prom­i­nent agri­cul­tural com­mu­ni­ties. Jones, a fa­ther of four, has been a farmer for most of his life, plant­ing, reap­ing and whole­sal­ing in a cy­cle that may be more than a tri­fle mo­not­o­nous…that how­ever may be about to change.

His am­bi­tious plan to, one day, cre­ate an en­ter­prise that pack­ages sweet potato chips for the do­mes­tic and re­gional mar­kets may have be­gun to take shape with the sup­port of the Na­tional Agri­cul­tural Re­search and Ex­ten­sion In­sti­tute. (NAREI).

The start that NAREI has of­fered Jones has come in the form of a gift of five hun­dred sweet potato slips. He intends to per­sist in sell­ing sweet potato at the Mocha com­mu­nity mar­ket but has set the end of 2017 as a tar­get for the be­gin­ning of his new en­ter­prise. The ven­ture will start as a kitchen op­er­a­tion and in its ear­li­est stage the tar­get mar­ket will be mem­bers of the Mocha com­mu­nity.

Named “Op­er­a­tion Suc­cess” the first phase of the project com­menced with Jones re­ceiv­ing sup­port un­der an agree­ment be­tween the Caribbean De­vel­op­ment Fund (CDF) and the Gov­ern­ment of Guyana.

Un­der the wider project, the Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture, NAREI, the Guyana Live­stock De­vel­op­ment Author­ity (GLDA) and the New Guyana Mar­ket­ing Cor­po­ra­tion (GMC) will col­lab­o­rate to as­sist farm­ers at Ithaca, Bux­ton, Beter­ver­wagt­ing and Mocha to pro­vide in­fra­struc­ture, in­clud­ing drainage and ir­ri­ga­tion, land clear­ing, soil test­ing and train­ing.

It was in an­tic­i­pa­tion of be­ing a ben­e­fi­ciary of the project that the 44-year old Jones sought the plant­ing ma­te­ri­als and made an ap­proach to NAREI. “I ap­proached NAREI for the sweet potato slips be­cause I know they would not have the sweet potato wee­vil…I know I wouldn’t be tak­ing back any pests to my farm to af­fect my crops…I know NAREI al­ways has qual­ity plant­ing ma­te­ri­als,” Jones said.

NAREI con­firms that its ex­pe­ri­ence has en­abled it to ac­quire stocks of disease-free plant­ing ma­te­rial in­clud­ing sweet potato chips. Sweet potato slips are pro­duced us­ing tis­sue cul­ture tech­nol­ogy. Samantha Brother­son, a Re­search Sci­en­tist, ex­plained that sweet potato mother plants are col­lected from farm­ers and mon­i­tored in a green­house for about three to four weeks. Fungi­cide and in­sec­ti­cide are ap­plied to the slips to erad­i­cate fun­gus. Once the mother plants are cleaned, shoots are col­lected from them and taken to the lab­o­ra­tory where sur­face ster­il­iza­tion, us­ing a fungi­cide dip, is ap­plied for 30 min­utes. The shoots are then washed in dis­tilled water, rinsed in a so­lu­tion com­pris­ing 70 % al­co­hol and af­ter­wards rinsed twice in dis­tilled water. The plants are then taken to a biosafety cab­i­net where 20% sodium hypochlo­rite so­lu­tions are used in a rins­ing

process that lasts be­tween fif­teen and twenty min­utes. Af­ter­wards, they are rinsed thrice with ster­il­ized water then left in the cul­ture room at a tem­per­a­ture of 25 de­gree Cel­sius then in six­teen hours of dark­ness and eight hours of light. After the first month, a sub­cul­ture is done and mul­ti­pli­ca­tion con­tin­ues.

With the sup­port of the CDF, Jones intends to ex­pand the range of his crops to in­clude cas­sava and turmeric. He has al­ready pre­pared four acres of his ten-acre farm on which he will grow sweet pota­toes and cas­sava si­mul­ta­ne­ously. Once the re­main­ing six acres are cleared, he will be in­tro­duc­ing the turmeric and other crops.

Com­ment­ing on the role of NAREI in the Project, NAREI Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer Dr. Oudho Hom­e­nauth said that the In­sti­tute plans to per­sist with soil sam­pling and anal­y­sis in or­der to de­ter­mine the best crops to be grown as well as man­age­ment prac­tices needed to en­sure ef­fi­cient and boun­ti­ful pro­duc­tion.

NAREI Ex­ten­sion of­fi­cers have been per­ma­nently as­signed to sup­port th­ese ini­tia­tives and to re­port their find­ings to the In­sti­tute.

Jones col­lect­ing his sweet potato slips from NAREI

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