ROSEAU, Dominica -- The black sigatoka disease, which was first detected in Dominica in 2012, has been plaguing banana farms across the island.
Black sigatoka disease is a leaf spot disease affecting banana and plantain plants. It is related to the yellow sigatoka disease but, according to internet sources, is more difficult to control.
Local farmer, Harris Registe, in an interview with CBN4 this week, disclosed his battle with the disease assaulting his farm. According to Registe, the black sigatoka disease is the most dangerous affecting his farm.
“It’s a deadly type of disease,” Registe told CBN4.
He must trim his banana leaves weekly in order to salvage some of the plants.
Registe explained, “Every time you take out a leaf, especially when it has the bunch, it does not grow back.”
Obviously, this would make it difficult for the crops to survive as leaves are important in helping a plan to photosynthesize. The “bald bananas,” as Registe’s wife described them, are crippled in their fight to live.
Registe’s wife, Anastasie, told reporters that banana farming, which has managed to sustain the couple’s livelihood thus far, is “dying.”
According to Anastasie, before the disease she and her husband were able to yield 65 to 75 boxes of bananas weekly.
This banana income secured the family land, a house, and education for their children, but the current spread of the black sigatoka disease has cut production down to 15 to 25 boxes per week.
She sees the disease as a menace to her farm, and the chances of a permanent solution dim and costly.
“That sigatoka, it’s really destroying us,” Anastasie said.
“I don’t see [in] what way it will really come out [from] here. The banana spray oil is very expensive; I think it’s twenty-five or twenty-seven dollars [for] one gallon of oil, and if he has to buy oil to spray here he has to use about eight gallons,” she explained.
While the ministry of agriculture has lent its efforts to helping farmers confront the disease, Registe said that visits from ministry officials throughout the year 2013 has not brought sufficient assistance to maintain the crop.
Registe mentioned that a representative from the ministry visits his farm on Wednesdays to test for the disease, and has provided him with some banana spray oil.
According to Registe, officials came to spray his farm about every four months. Throughout 2013 his crops were sprayed approximately three times by officials.
Research has shown that the black sigatoka disease thrives in wet, humid weather and high rainfall, similar to what has been showering Dominica in recent times, and the black streak which the disease causes will coalesce and kill the entire plant.
Apart from the black sigatoka disease, Registe said the rain has also invaded his farm with a multitude of complications.
These include the washing away of fertilizer, the spread of the black bottom disease which affects his citrus cops, and unfavourable living conditions for his farm animals.
Registe said a number of farmers have given up because of these difficulties, which has put a damper on the profits made through agriculture. However, the farmer said he is holding on in hopes of better days for his farm.
In the meantime, Registe manages to sustain his family through market sales.
“People will tell you they don’t have money, they cannot buy,” Registe said, “but anyway I still ask and thank God for the mercy, for what I’m getting from my farm.”
The farmer said “Every week I go to market and I sell,” and this is the income he uses to maintain his house and his bills.”
Registe’s 4.8 acre farm is located in the village of Warner.
Republished with permission of CBN4News