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Vicbern Seeks to Help Farmers Improve Crop Production

Vicbern Seeks to Help Farmers Improve Crop Production

The Vicbern Research Centre at the Northern Caribbean University (NCU) has proved that it can provide research and reproduce agricultural plants using the tissue culture method to farmers in Central Jamaica. With an improved laboratory, they are now capable of reproducing many disease-free plants for the farming communities in Manchester and St. Elizabeth.


Tissue culture is a method used to eliminate diseases and create a clean plant so as to enable better yield for farmers. Irish potato, particularly the Spunta, is mainly reproduced as a part of the agreement with the Government of Jamaica and NCU using the tissue culture method. Associate Professor in the Department of Biology, Chemistry and Environmental Sciences, Dr. Gordon Lightbourne, stated that the lab has 17 varieties of Irish potatoes all of which the lab now have as samples. He revealed that the lab can clone or reproduce disease-free plants from anywhere in the world once a sample is brought to the lab. He noted that some plants may take months even years using the tissue culture method. Lightbourne also added that for some plants may take three weeks.

Dr. Lightbourne explained that micro-tubers and tissue culture plants are different as micro-tubers are readier to be nurtured and planted when to the tissue culture plant. He hinted that the tissue culture is faster than seed production. “We are producing mini-tubers or micro tubers… the farmers say that they can better handle it than the tissue culture plants,” Lightbourne said.

Lab helping farmers

Dr. Lightbourne revealed that producing plants in a lab is extremely expensive. However, the research centre does realize the plight of farmers and offer the micro-tubers for as little as 0.50 US. They are also able to utilize the greenhouse that is owned by NCU to grow their plants if they do not have one at home to grow the micro tubers that they purchase.

“Farmers who do not own a greenhouse and have a backyard where it is shaded, they can learn the technique of hardening them,” Lightbourne said.

The lab can produce a lot of different plants that are either grown here or abroad. The lab can produce yams, strawberries and the African violet plant.

He also revealed that local ginger crops are dying due to a disease called rhizome rot. The lab produces ginger that is free from diseases and can cause farmers to readily increase their production of ginger. He also added that the government has been pushing for the revival of the production of ginger as the rhizome rot is causing farmers to lose income.

“We (Jamaican farmers) are (producing) about 10 per cent of what we used to produce back in 1960. We are having a downward fall of the production of ginger.  In fact, we are even importing ginger… It is because of this disease (rhizome rot) it inhabits the soil,” Lightbourne said.

Lightbourne suggests that farmers purchase the tissue culture plants, avoid soil and grow ginger in a container to combat this disease.

The lab also produces mushrooms which are rarely found in Jamaica for residents to purchase. The Vicbern Research Centre caters to the farmers of Central Jamaica and ensures that they gain disease-free plants that will improve plant production.

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