National drive on to replant

With post-Ivan reconstruction in full swing, the need to replant trees destroyed during the storm moves to a higher priority.

To launch this drive, Agriculture Day on Ash Wednesday, 9 February, will offer an opportunity for residents to purchase replacement plants and trees and even some vegetable seedlings for backyard grow boxes.

The theme for this year’s special day is The Spirit is Alive: Replanting and Re-growing. Several plant nurseries and organizations such as the National Trust will be exhibiting and offering suitable plants and trees for sale.

Chief Agricultural and Veterinary Officer Dr. Alfred Benjamin said Agriculture Day will signal the launch of a national re-planting drive that he anticipates will take root in time for the rainy season, commencing in May.

‘Timing is an important consideration,’ he said. ‘With rains expected then, we want to capitalize on getting help from nature.’

Dr. Benjamin added that in support of that goal he anticipated shortly assembling a government/private sector national tree-planting group to lead the drive. To that end, considerable behind-the-scenes planning has already taken place to source plants and trees, an initiative that is less simple than it might appear; he explained that local plant health protocols require visits to countries to evaluate fitness of particular plants and trees before importation is allowed.

Such precautions are critical, Dr. Benjamin emphasized, as we must continue to protect the Islands from inadvertent importation of plant pests. For example, to ensure local protection from the pink hibiscus mealy bug which infests at epidemic levels in some parts of the region, the Cayman Islands has adopted a strict plant protocol governing imports from Florida. This approach is designed to ensure that the Islands remain free from this pest as long as possible.

The Department of Agriculture’s regime of onsite assessment of potential live plant import sources is therefore now a matter of routine. When Cuba was identified pre-Ivan as a potential source for certain plant imports, that island was visited to arrange clearance for specific flora. For post-Ivan needs, plans are now underway for another visit, with a view to expanding the range of plants and trees sourced there.

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