Soil testing lab at UG’s Berbice campus could boost rice yields

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Farmers in Berbice will  in the near future have access to a $24Million soil and disease testing centre that could send rice yields even higher.

The sod being turned to officially launch the construction of the testing centre by (from left to right) Prof, Michael Scott, Professor Ivelaw Griffith, Mohin Persaud, Gomathinayagam Subramanian, while other university and company officials look on.

The unit is a collaboration between Nand Persaud Group of Companies and the University of Guyana’s Tain Campus in Berbice and it should be in place in about three months.

At the sod turning for the building on Thursday at the John’s Science Centre, President of the Central Corentyne Chamber of Commerce, Poonai Bhigroog noted that the initiative is a step in the right direction in advancing agriculture in a region where it is the backbone of the economy.

He explained soil testing is important for a number of reasons: farmers will be able to boost crop production, protect the environment from the use of excessive fertilizers, diagnose plant problems, improve the nutritional balance of the growing plant and save money and conserve energy by applying only the amount of fertilizer needed. Moreover, it will help in producing a healthier nation as consumers will benefit from food produced from the best and safe practices. Bhigroog also lauded the partnership with the university and the private sector and pledged the chamber’s support.

“With the closure of the [sugar] estates many have returned to farming and they are certain to benefit from this venture. Graduates can be employed in this centre, experiments can be done to advance agriculture.”

Director of the Berbice Campus, Gomathinayagam Subramanian

Director of the Berbice Campus, Gomathinayagam Subramanian who has been instrumental in making the centre a reality said; “My dream was to always help the farmers and the dream came true with the help of the vice chancellor who always encouraged me.”

Vice Chancellor of the University of Guyana, Professor Ivelaw Griffith remarked that the university will also be embarking on an institution for food and security.

Vice Chancellor of the University of Guyana, Professor Ivelaw Griffith

“We will pursue that journey of creating a sound basis for policy and advice on agriculture and food safety and nutrition. we will need many more corporate partners, civic partners to be able to take this nation to a higher level not only being able to take this nation to a higher level but actualizing the potential for the Caribbean and for South America.”

Chief Executive Officer, Nand Persaud and Company Limited, Mohin Persaud said the company remains committed to improving the lives, production and productivity of farmers as well as that of the community and given that students can also benefit from the laboratory the decision was taken to construct the facility in East Berbice.

Chief Executive Officer, Nand Persaud and Company Limited, Mohin Persaud

Persaud is optimistic that with the use of the lab farmers in Berbice, they should be leading the country and ultimately the world in yields.

“I expect with the use of the lab, farmers can be able to get at least yields of 50 bags per acre given that we have flats lands and fresh water. There are a few farmers that are getting 50 bags and with soil tests, they can now increase that to 60 or more bags per acre. With this, I see no reason why we as a country should not be the world leaders in rice production as very few countries have access to flatlands and fresh water.”

Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Nand Persaud Group of Companies and Brother of Mohin, Rajendra Persaud said while the initiative is a good one from his company, he is very pleased with the actions of the university and by extension the government for partnering with a private company for a joint venture.

He said the initiative is aimed at making decisions based on scientific information and will transform the agricultural industry and make it more competitive.

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