A bit about Guyana Agriculture

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The current population of the whole country of Guyana is under 780,000 people in about 83,000 sq. miles of land mass. For a bit of context, the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex is about 9,286 sq. miles with a population of about 7,500,000!

Agriculture is of great economic importance in Guyana, accounting for about 1/3 of its Gross Domestic Product and  about 30% of its work force (export.gov). Two of the major commodities grown in Guyana include rice and sugar. At the end of 2015, the Ministry of Agriculture had reported an increased production of rice from 635,238 tonnes of rice (2014) to 683,516 tonnes (2015). The Ministry of Agriculture is working on trials to introduce several new cultivars of rice into the market to increase yields, which is rather crucial, seeing as how the 7.6% increase in rice yields was met by a 15% decrease in rice value in the global market.

Adult brown marmorated stink bug
An adult brown marmorated stink bug. Photo by: Susan Ellis, Bugwood.org

As with any major commodity, there’s bound to be a pest or pests of great economic importance. In this case, it’s the “Paddy Bug“, what appears to be a sucking insect pest in the same family as stink bugs (Pentatomidae). This wouldn’t be the first Pentatomidae that causes major economic damage and we are no strangers of major Pentatomidae pests in the USA; an example in the USA is the brown marmorated stink bug – a generalist sucking insect pest that causes damage on several different fruits and vegetables in the northeast. Some of the current best management practices for the paddy bug include removing alternative plant hosts, where they can continue to breed or survive when the rice crop is not yet planted.

Sugar also saw great increases in crop yields, but also saw a decrease in global market prices. No major pests of economic importance were mentioned in the Ministry of Agriculture report.

I do not anticipate working much with growers producing rice or sugar, but rather speciality crop producers, such as vegetables, fruits, and perhaps even ornamentals. Another devastating pest mentioned in the report is the Red palm mite, particularly on coconuts, with $49M approved to help farmers affected by the red palm mite in Guyana back in 2015.

Photo of red palm mite
Red palm mite female. Photo by: Jennifer Beard and Eric Erbe, Flat Mites of the World, USDA APHIS PPQ, Bugwood.org

The red palm mite is considered an invasive pest (i.e. not native to Guyana), originally found near the Middle East. In 2004, this mite started to show in several regions in Central and South America, and in 2007, was even found in Florida (Ent Department, UFL). Give it some time, and this mite could become a pest in Texas as well – so I guess it will help to get a close look at first hand it in Guyana.

Note to self: wash clothes thoroughly before bringing back to Texas.

Guyana’s Ag has seen more recent increases in specialty crops, such as spices, new vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli, red cabbage, and sweet pepper), and revitalization of crops such as coconut and cassava, according to Guyana’s National Agricultural Research & Extension Institute (similar to Texas A&Ms AgriLife Extension in Texas).  Interesting note about Cassava, the dried leaves can contain about 30% protein by mass (Awoyinka et al. 1995), although the same study seems to imply that dried leaves are not super palatable. I hope to find out for myself when I’m in Guyana.

Guyana also has a Livestock Development Authority, with one objective aimed at increasing apiculture (honeybee cultivation) production to a nation-wide scale, increase yields and meet international standards. Guyana’s Pesticide and Toxic Chemical Control Board (PTCCB) is responsible for all things related to pesticide registration and application. An interesting initiative included in the PTCCB 2017 report is a pilot project aimed to educate secondary school students on pesticides nation-wide! Covering such topics at an early age may go a long way in increasing science literacy and decreasing misinformation about pesticides, which are incredibly valuable to food security, human safety, and the environment.

Some of the most imported (quantity, in kg) insecticides belong to the pyrethroid, organophosphate and neonicotinoid insecticide classes. Some specific examples include Alpha-Cypermethrin, Carbaryl, Chlorpyrifos & Cypermethrin, imidacloprid, and Triazophos. Most of these insecticides are “hammers” – they work really well, but will typically knock out beneficial insects as well. In the case of the chemical class containing imidacloprid, studies have demonstrated an outbreak of spidermites (a small plant-damaging mite) after pesticide applications (Szczepaniec et al. 2011); a phenomena that has since been attributed to the pesticide interfering with the natural defenses in the plant (Szczepaniec et al. 2013). In the case of carbaryl, it is thought that it devastates the natural predators of the herbivorous spidermites, resulting in a herbivore population that’s left unchecked. This also applies to people applying Sevin dust in their own garden; if you notice spidermite damage shortly after application, you may want to consider applying something different.

Insecticide import chart for Guyana in 2017
Insecticide imports by active ingredient into Guyana in 2017. Chart from the PTCCB (http://www.ptccb.org.gy)

A short post can’t do the full scale and complexities of Guyana’s agriculture justice, but hopefully this post provided a sprench of context – I know it helped me become a bit more familiar with the agencies, crops, and pests that they may be dealing with.

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