Current Research

Our research is aimed at creating new knowledge to help solve the challenges facing our nation.

Improvement of post-harvest practices...

…through the development of appropriate production practices, careful harvesting, and proper packaging, storage, and transport. Best post-harvest practices (BHT) suitable for small-scale operations; the importance of production and harvesting techniques for improving quality and storability.

Papaya: virus-resistant varieties

Utilising both traditional and biotechnological methods for development of new virus resistant varieties for Jamaican farmers. Improved virus control programmes will enable farmers to find new solutions to problems of propagation and production. Under field conditions in Jamaica, tolerant cultivars have shown useful reactions of no symptoms or mild infections. Transfer of the tolerance genes into cultivars adapted for production in Jamaica by conventional breeding methods.

Soil Solarization

The use of mulches and soil solarization for weed management in vegetable crops, especially those organically-grown.

Tomatoes, Sweetpeppers and Pomegranates

The productivity of tomatoes over their crop life and in different seasons in greenhouse cultivation as well as the assessment of a new agricultural product, a growth enhancer called Stimulate, on greenhouse-grown tomatoes and sweet peppers. Pomegranate growth and fruiting including providing germplasm of new pomegranate cultivars.

contact: Dr. J. Cohen | email

Rice cultivation & the Apple Snail

One of the major initiatives in the drive towards agricultural self sufficiency in Jamaica is the development of rice cultivation on a major scale. Currently much of the rice on sale in Jamaica is imported. Cultivated rice in Jamaica has many pests - one being Pomacea, the Apple Snail. Recently a species of this snail has been identified in Jamaican rivers and in the experimental rice plots. This snail species may or may not damage the rice crop by eating the young seedlings; it may be beneficial to rice growth. Our research seeks to establish the effect of the presence of the snail on rice growth and if the species is found to be a pest, to examine the best mechanisms which could be used to control it.

contact: Dr. E. Hyslop | email

Rat lungworms and Snails: a human link?

Investigating the human health link between local snails infected with rat lungworms (Angiostrongylus cantonensis) and local agricultural produce. The research shows the link between agricultural produce that has been contaminated by snail slime containing infective larvae of the rat lungworm - and human health.  Snails, infected by eating wild rat droppings, become infected and secrete infective larvae with their slime; particularly whilst feeding.  More than 20 human fatalities due to rat lungworm infections have been documented in the last 16 years.  The research reinforces the need to maintain vegetable plots free of snails, and details the ease to which infections can be controlled by adequate washing of raw produce! 

Coastal Forest Nursery

Research into coastal forest nursery propagation will generate best practice manuals for nursery set up and management and the production of "head-started" coastal forest species for planting island-wide. Thousands of seedlings of the dominant mangrove and beach dune species have been produced and used in re-vegetation activities around the island.

Frogs: free pest control

On-going research has shown that frogs are often the most numerous and important consumers of insects in tropical environments, and thus provide free pest control services for the agricultural sector. Unfortunately, 81% of Jamaica's native frog species are threatened with extinction.  Because amphibians such as frogs are excellent "bio-indicators" of environmental health, the status of the islands frog populations are of considerable concern.

Seahorse Mariculture

The seahorse mariculture project is aimed at establishing protocols for the breeding of marine ornamentals which are in high demand for aquarium displays and so alleviate fishing pressures imposed on wild stock while providing a reliable supply of marine ornamentals for the aquarium industry.

contact: Dr. K. Aiken | email

Coral Reef Ecology – South coast of Jamaica

Current projects include investigations into coral reef health of the Port Royal Cays and Portland Bight Cays. The multi-proxy approach (which includes coral health, benthos and fish communities, sedimentation, turbidity, water chemistry, benthic foraminifera) aims to better understand the health and dynamics of these coastal coral reefs to inform coastal management strategies and the development of new fish sanctuaries.

contact: Dr. S. Palmer

Coral Reef Rehabilitation – Port Royal Cays

Current projects include establishing a small-scale artificial reef using Acroporid and non-Acroporid coral species on the Port Royal Cays and determining its ‘effectiveness’ in enhancing coral reef health and fisheries. A range of methods to assess and monitor coral growth and fish assemblage interactions associated with the artificial reef aims to inform the scaling-up and monitoring of coral reef rehabilitation efforts around Jamaica.

contact: Dr. S. Palmer