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Wednesday, July 30

Fruit Feature: Cherries

Three's a crowd?

Why is it that I imagine that the idyllic picture of cherries have to be of paired cherries? The images I recall, though, are not of the West Indian variety. Nevertheless, I was excited to find a picture perfect pair of West Indian cherries.

A cherry by any other name...

Other names by which the West Indian cherry is known include:

  • Scientific Name: Malpighia Punicifolia L.
  • Barbados cherry
  • Native cherry
  • Garden cherry
  • French cherry
  • Acerola

When life gives you cherries...

More than your recommended daily allowance of Vitamin C from a single cherry?! After the initial grimace when taste buds first encounter the sour shock, the antioxidant properties should return your face to its previously wrinkle free countenance. Antioxidants combat free radicals which cause cellular damage which contribute to aging and a variety of non-communicable diseases. A greater number of cherries can be consumed by crafting recipes which reduce the acidity, from simple juices to wines.
Fun fact: So sour are these cherries that "[w]ine made from Barbados cherries in Hawaii was found to retain 60% of ascorbic acid".
Cherries are additionally a source of dietary fibre, Vitamin A, Vitamin B, magnesium, potassium and iron.
West Indian cherry tree. Cherries are hiding in there.
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Saturday, July 26

Organic Pest Control

You have been attempting organic production. Land preparation and establishment of crops has been a success with Compost. In the process of scouting, you observe one caterpillar. Then two. And overnight you have two hundred on one plant! Abandoning your attempt at organic farming seems to be the follow-up activity in the sequence of organic farming practices. But wait, there is hope yet! At a training workshop held on Thursday July 24, 2014, the use of plants for biological control of pests was demonstrated.
L-R: Adelfa (red), Adelfa (pink), Neem

The plants selected for today's demonstration were:
  1. OLEANDER: A fixture of the home garden, this plant has great POTENTial for organic pest control. You can identify the plant by the dull green, slender pointed leaves with clusters of flowers at the end of the branches. The flowers range in colour from white through cream, pink rose and red. Participants were cautioned of the toxicity of the plant. In handling the plant, one should not eat, drink nor smoke. So poisonous is this plant, that even food cooked on the wood is poisoned. Does this leave any doubt in your mind that the Oleander can be effective in pest control? It can be used to control ants, flies, caterpillars and other insects. Other names by which this shrub is known includes Adelfa, Rose Bay and Rosa Fancesca.
  2. NEEM: The use of neem as a biological pesticide is known far and wide due to its commercialisation. The seeds are a more concentrated source of the pesticidal ingredient than the leaves. The seeds (kernels) are used to make neem oil. Neem is used in the control of pests such as beetles, termites, scale insects, mealy bugs and aphids.
    It's bubbling and it's not soup
  1. Crush and boil leaves, seeds or bark for 30 minutes
  2. Let cool 
  3. Pour into spray can
  4. Add soap mixture (Grate one bar of blue soap and add to 5 gallons of water; Use 500mL to 1 spray can)
  5. Spray!
  • The Oleander can also be crushed and SOAKED  for 30 minutes (See Step 1). It is more poisonous when boiled than soaked.
  • Neem is most effective under humid conditions or when the insect and the plants are damp.
  • Cover the container when boiling (regardless of plant selection) to prevent the entry of light as light reduces the potency. The cooled extraction should also not be be exposed to sunlight.
  • The boiled contents are only good for 48 hours.
  • After mixing with soap, the solution is only effective for 8 hours.
This can be tailored to both large scale production and production for home use. For home use, I would recommend Adelfa as the better option as it is widely available and can be soaked instead of going through the boiling method.

Saturday, July 19

Farmer Field School Open Day

"A farmer is a person outstanding in their field". Get the double entendre?

At Farmer Field School, farmers perform outstandingly at a learning program which is very practical and participatory. What is Farmer Field School? The following video provides an overview of the program with the description of the project, teaching methodology and participant feedback:

On Wednesday, July 16, 2014, an Open Day was held for the the Farmer Field School for the region of Choiseul/Soufriere. Field School for this region is conducted on the farm holding of Mr. Compton at River Doree, Choiseul. The program which is currently funded by the Taiwan International Cooperation and Development Fund also benefits from technical support of the Taiwan Technical Mission. The sessions are also facilitated by the Ministry of Agriculture Extension Services. In attendance were representatives from the Embassy of Taiwan, Taiwan Technical Mission, Ministry of Agriculture, Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI), Hotels and Ministry of Social Transformation.

The event was organised with a presentation on Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) in the production of watermelon and corn-these were the two crops grown by the Field School participants. These GAPs presented ranged from production to post-harvest to marketing activities.

Audience to Mr. Pilgrim's (CARDI) presentation

Afterwards, the group was taken on a tour of the field cultivated by the Field School trainees. The varieties of watermelon planted were the Empire No. 2 and Dark Belle. The corn varieties cultivated were the White Pearl and America H5. 
Intercropped corn and watermelon

After the walk in the afternoon sun, we were refreshed with the Watermelon Tasting segment of the activity. The fruit of the labour of the Field School trainees were on display whole and sliced for the enjoyment of the visitors. Following which there was a Question and Answer Segment.
Taste test: Which variety do you prefer?
Congratulations to the trainees who will be graduating from the Farmer Field School at the end of the month on their achievement!