While Jamaica was once known as the world’s leading producer of ginger, it has become a victim of widespread diseases affecting ginger cultivation; ginger production has steadily declined on the island over the last 20 years.
The IAEA, in partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), is supporting Jamaica by developing new ginger varieties, tolerant to prevailing diseases. While the IAEA and FAO have supported experts all over the world in breeding over two dozen different crops, it is the first time that nuclear techniques are used to improve ginger. With these techniques, high-quality ginger varieties are being developed to increase the prices farmers can fetch locally and for their exports on the international market.
The main disease affecting ginger production in Jamaica is Ginger Rhizome Rot (GRR), which kills the plants it infects. Caused by fungi, bacteria and worms, the disease leads to rot inside the plant and turns its leaves yellow, as they wilt and die. The prevalence of GRR disease has resulted in over 60 per cent of yield losses in major ginger producing areas of Jamaica.
“Nuclear applications have the potential to develop new varieties of ginger with inbuilt tolerance to pathogens during crop growth,” said Isaac Kofi Bimpong, plant breeder and geneticist at the Joint FAO/IAEA Centre. “This approach is expected to lead to the production of high-quality ginger with appreciable yields to prevent the high economic losses currently being experienced by local farmers.”
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