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Taiwan helps Belize citrus farmers fight citrus greening

Belizean citrus growers, Justino Chiac of Maya Mopan Village on the Southern Highway, and Gilbert Galvez of Ringtail Village on the Hummingbird Highway, are learning to control the Huanglongbing (HLB) disease, known as citrus greening, which is so detrimental to citrus orchards, through the technical support of a project, funded by Taiwan’s International Cooperation Development Fund (ICDF).

The project to “Strengthen the Control of Huanglongbing (HLB) and the Implementation of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) in Citrus” is jointly funded by the ICDF and OIRSA, the International Organization for Regional Agricultural Health.

The ICDF control HLB pilot project, has collaborated with four Belizean farmers, two in the Stann Creek and two in the Cayo district, to establish four exhibition groves, using best practices for control of HLB, as demonstration models to teach other citrus growers in the area how to control and manage HLB.

The ICDF project coordinator, ‘Orlando’ Sheng Yang Li, and Jose Cocom of OIRSA, have been teaching these farmers the best practices to keep their orchards free of HLB. It’s a huge boon for 68-year-old Justino Chiac, who has been farming since he was 15 years old. Orphaned after his mother died when he was just seven, and his father died when he was 10, Chiac’s formal schooling ended at Standard IV, but he has learnt to work the land. Chiac now works 10 acres of citrus, and the project has helped him plant a demonstration plot of two acres, with 145 trees per acre, which he began in January 2014.

“Candidatus Liberibacter”, the bacteria which causes HLB, can only enter an orchard through an insect carrier, or through infected bud wood, so it’s important that the buds used to start the orchard are verifiably free of the disease. The project provided him with the seedlings, which he grafted onto a sour orange root stock, a variety chosen for its resistance to local pests and other diseases. The project also provides him with granular fertilizer and liquid fertilizer which supplies key elements like sulphur, boon and manganese - key elements for healthy tree growth; teaching him to program a spray calendar for 10 applications per year.

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