Plant Health Unit

Vision Statement

To safeguard the Turks and Caicos Islands agriculture from quarantine pests by building a robust agriculture system, through the application of science-based bio-security measures, which will contribute to positive agro-economic diversity and stability of the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Plant Health Services Division (PHSD)

The PHSD is the National Plant Protection Organization of the Department of Agriculture. The unit has specific roles and responsibilities for management and coordination of plant health and plant health related activities, which are primarily plant protection and quarantine functions. The Chief Plant Protection Officer (CPPO) is the unit Head. He/she plans and coordinates the implementation of activities that are designed to mitigate the entry of plant pests and to control the spread of those present on the island.

Core Responsibilities of the PHSD

The unit has specific responsibilities for the following:

  • Organize, regulate, implement, monitor and coordinate all plant protection and quarantine services needed for sustainable agricultural development and environmental protection (including plants found in the natural and semi-natural habitats).
  • Prevent the introduction and spread of plant pests, to protect and promote plant health; to control the movement of regulated articles into, from and within the Turks and Caicos Islands and for connected purposes through:
    • Pest Risk Analysis
    • Pest Detection & Identification (Inspection & Diagnostic Services)
    • Development and implementation of plant biosecurity programs
    • Plant Pest Surveillance
    • Plant Nursery Monitoring program
  • Issue Phytosanitary Certificates to facilitate exportation of regulated articles in accordance with international standards and obligations.
  • Promote and facilitate sustainable agricultural production and trade through dissemination of information to all stakeholders, including crop farmers.
  • Provide training of crop farmers in agriculture best practices.
  • Develop phytosanitary standards in accordance with the IPPC ISPMs and WTO SPS Agreement.
  • Provide information on phytosanitary matters to the NPPO of Contracting Parties (those countries we are actively involved in agricultural trade with).
  • Administer a permit system for the importation of regulated articles (fruits, vegetables, live plants, cut flowers etc.)
  • Provide timely notification to the IPPC Secretariat on pest outbreaks and other phytosanitary related matters.

In random order, the following represents the main functions covered by the Services:

  • Plant Protection

Plant protection is the science and practice of managing invertebrate pests and vertebrate pests, plant diseases, weeds and other organisms that damage agricultural crops and forestry.

PHSD performs this function by anticipating the emergence and spread of noxious organisms (weeds, insects, microorganisms etc) and to prevent their introduction and spread before they become agricultural pests in the islands. In this regard, biosecurity measures and rapid and efficient sharing of information across the Caribbean and local stakeholders in the Turks and Caicos Islands become of paramount importance for preventing new incursions.

Several steps are involved in the plant protection process or strategy, including early pest diagnosis, pest identification, damage assessment, and prevention and control strategies. The unit conducts visits to crop farms and kitchen garden plots to observed crop damage and make diagnosis of the pests involved. We also utilize the electronic microscope to aid the identification process. Prevention and control recommendations are then introduced to curtail the pest problem.

  • Plant Quarantine

Plant quarantine is a technique for ensuring disease- and pest-free plants, whereby a plant is isolated while tests are performed to detect the presence of a problem. Plant Quarantine is therefore our first line of defence against the ingress and spread of quarantine pests. These organisms are potentially damaging to local flora, including cultivate crops and natural vegetation. Consequently, the Department of Agriculture through its Plant Health Services Division (PHSD) has proposed the enactment adoption of several pieces of legislations were promulgated to regulate the importation of live plants, fruits, vegetables, and other regulated articles into the Turks and Caicos Islands.

  • Pest and Disease Surveillance

The Pest and disease surveys are required to maintain "pest-free" status of an area, to detect new populations of quarantine pests, and to delimit populations of quarantine pests in the Turks and Caicos Islands. Pest and disease surveys are also an integral part of control and eradication programs. PHSD has developed and implemented the Tephritid Fruit Fly Surveillance and Trapping Program in North Caicos and Grand Turk respectively. Plans are in place to introduce the Red Palm Weevil Surveillance and Trapping program within the first quarter of 2016. Survey protocols will be developed for each program and the relevant databases created for the storage and analysis of the data.

  • International Phytosanitary responsibilities

The PHSD is the National Plant Protection Organization (NPPO) of the Department of Agriculture. Consequently, the unit has direct responsibilities for information sharing with the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) and other relevant international bodies that promulgates laws relating to plant health. PHSD submits timely updates to the IPPC on the organizational structure and functions of the unit. The unit also contributes to phytosanitary standards development through the IPPC Online Commenting System, which is monitored by the Commission for Phytosanitary Measures (CPM). The Chief Plant Protection Officer (CPPO), the unit’s head, actively participates in activities that the CPHD Technical Working Groups on Fruit Fly and Palm Pest promotes.

  • Crop Production

Crop production encompasses a series of processes involved in the growing of crops – from land preparation and seed selection, through planting to the produce reaching the farm gate. It, is not operated in isolation but rather constitutes a holistic coordinated system of farming, which in turn is a constituent of the broader agro-ecosystem and landscape. To promote crop production in the Turks and Caicos Islands, several stakeholder meetings were conducted to educate and sensitize farmers of the way forward and to create “buy-in” of certain key planned programs and activities. Some of the activities planned include plant clinics, crop extension, seedling drive (free distribution and sale in some cases), and creation of demonstration plots on the government farm. The overall goal of the crop production program is to create an environment that stimulates increased farming, which would ultimately contribute to food security in the Turks and Caicos Islands.

  • Crop Extension

Owing to a shortage of staff, extension services are not provided as reliable as it should. However, with additional staff projected to come on stream, it is anticipated that more visits would be made to farmers and other interested persons in the communities. The purpose of this service is to ensure that farmers remain competitive in a global farming economy even as they adopt safer, more environmentally sustainable production practices. The Turks and Caicos Islands soil is predominantly limestone and therefore presents many challenges to farmers in their attempts to cultivate tree crops and some vegetable crops. It is the aim of PHSD to provide technical assistance on best agronomic practices to minimize production costs while increasing yields and /or productivity of cultivated plants on the islands.

  • IMPORT/EXPORT (Inspection and Permits)

An Import Permit (IP) is required by any individual who would like to apply for permission to import regulated articles (plants, plant products, planting material and other related articles). A Phytosanitary Certificate is required by an individual who would like to export regulated articles to a foreign country. Any person who wants to import regulated articles must complete an application form in presecribed form. The common and scientific name/s including genus and species and variety/cultivar must be included, where applicable. The intended purpose of the article must be stated, for example, consumption, propagation, research, further processing, decoration etc.

For import of new articles, plant health services must conduct a Pest Risk Analysis (PRA). Pest Risk Analysis is a process of evaluating the level of phytosanitary risks associated with the article to be imported. This process may involve field survey, data collection and analysis on the distribution of pests associated with the proposed import, treatment the article has undergone, and phytosanitary measures that should be implemented in the Turks and Caicos Islands, if necessary.

Plant Health Services Programs & Activities
  1. INSPECTION

Plant Health Services conducted various kinds of inspections. Some of the inspections done are:

Import Inspection: This type of inspection involves the examination of import documentation, products and containers at both sea and airports. The main purpose of this inspection is to ensure that the importer complies with the Turks and Caicos Islands import requirements and that the articles are free from quarantine pests and diseases.

Import inspections are normally conducted upon the day of product arrival to ensure that potential threat of pest incursions are mitigated expeditiously.

Cargo Vessel Inspection: This inspection is conducted on vessel with consignments of plants and non-plant materials to ensure that hitch-hikers and organisms from improper waste disposal etc. do not enter the island.

  • Cruise Ship Inspection
  • Crop Farm Inspection
  • Plant Nursery Inspection
  • Fruit and Vegetable Processing Facility Inspection
  • Market Inspection
  • Inspection for Audit
  • Inspection for Risk Analysis
  • Export Inspection
  1. PLANT BIOSECURITY

Plant biosecurity is the array of strategies aimed to assess and manage the risks of infectious diseases, quarantined pests, invasive alien species, and living modified organisms in natural and managed ecosystems (Meyerson and Reaser 2002).  In essence, plant biosecurity prevents, minimizes and controls the introduction and spread of plant pests at the farm level. Plant biosecurity development and implementation is crucial since pest problems can severely reduce the sustainability and profitability of any agricultural sector. 

Plant Health Services Division (PHSD) is charged with the responsibilities of developing and implementing plant biosecurity strategies in the Turks and Caicos Islands. The activities conducted by PHSD fall within a continuum that includes off-shore detection and management of exotic pests, port –of-entry phytosanitary measures, and domestic eradication or control of newly introduced pests. The main off-shore activities PHSD focusses on are preclearance inspections for certain imported regulated articles and the development of a regional networking programme for managing emerging exotic pest threats.

A good biosecurity programme is critical to:                                                                        

  • Facilitate TCI’s food security and safety.
  • Protect local farmers’ productivity.
  • Protect farmers’ livelihood and agribusiness development.
  • Reduce chemical usage and aid organic crop production.

PHSD’s current and emerging biosecurity programme includes pre and post inspection activities, pest risk analysis, treatment (physical, chemical, biological), pest surveillance, pest detection, pest identification, certification of regulated articles for import/export, and stakeholder training.

Although malicious species introductions are always a concern, accidental and natural ingress of plant pests are also highly probable, therefore travelers, and shippers have crucial roles in the continuous fight against their incursions.

The growing threat of the environmental damage to the Turks and Caicos Islands, and the economic cost caused by exotic pest invasions to other Caribbean countries underline the need to continue improving the Turks and Caicos Islands plant biosecurity programme. For example, since the introduction of the Pink Hibiscus Mealybug (Maconellicoccus hirsutus) into the Caribbean region, control costs have been staggering for many countries. If left uncontrolled, M. hirsutus could potentially cause $750 million/year and $5 billion over 10 years to agriculture in the United States (Noffitt 1999). The estimated economic losses caused by M. hirsutus, which include crop losses, cost of control, and impact on trade, were $18.3 million (USD) in Grenada (1995-1997), $280,000 in St. Kitts (1995-1997), $5.1 million in Trinidad (1995-1997), $67,000 in St. Lucia and St. Vincent, and $3.4 million in the Grenadines. An infestation in Puerto Rico was under successful biological control, and thus they avoided significant economic losses (Michaud 2003).

  1. FARM BIOSECURITY

Farm biosecurity is a set of measures designed to protect a property (plant establishment) from the entry and spread of pests and diseases. The term refers to a set of management practices and activities that are carried out on-farm to protect it from the entry and spread of plant pests, diseases and weeds.

Farm biosecurity is your responsibility, and that of every person visiting or working on your property.

Cultivators and their workers have a key role to play in protecting the Turks and Caicos Islands developing agriculture (plant) industry from pests, diseases, and invasive alien species by implementing sound biosecurity measures on-farm.

If a new pest or disease becomes established on your farm, it will affect your business through increased costs (for monitoring, production practices, additional chemical use and labour), reduced productivity (in yield and/or quality) or loss of markets. Early detection and immediate reporting of an exotic pest or disease increases the chance of effective and efficient eradication.

The Farm Biosecurity program is an important part of Plant Health Services Division (PHSD) emergency animal disease and exotic plant pest surveillance systems. Surveillance allows us to rapidly detect, identify, and institute appropriate plant protection measures to eradicate and /or control the spread of deleterious plant pests. Surveillance also provides evidence of the Turks and Caicos Islands pest and disease status to support local and international trade.

Farmers, farm workers, and the general public are encouraged to contact an official at Plant Health Services Division to report any unusual looking organisms on their properties. A PHSD official can be reached via the following telephone numbers and /or email addresses:

Plant Health Services Division recommends the following simple management practices to reduce the threat of new pests entering and establishing on farms:

Prevention: Simple biosecurity measures can be used to protect the agriculture industry by keeping crops pest free and preventing movement of pests between areas.

Awareness: Make sure you, your farm workers and contractors are familiar with local and common pests and the most important vegetable pest threats (emergency/notifiable pests) for your region so that any new pests can be identified.

Training: Conduct biosecurity training sessions on your farm and use photos or posters to explain hygiene practices for workers, equipment and vehicles. Ask an officer of Plant Health Services Division for help, if required.

Know Your Sources: Ensure all propagation material (seed, transplants, tubers, corns, bulbs, rhizomes) and farm inputs are fully tested and pest free. Keep records (batch numbers, source) and retain a sample of your farm inputs. Be especially careful with secondhand packaging, bins and machinery movements.

Keep It Clean: Practicing good sanitation and hygiene will help prevent the entry and movement of pests onto your property. You, workers and visitors can spread pests, so make sure to clean dirt and plant material from any footwear, equipment or vehicles before they enter and leave your farm. Restrict the movement of people, vehicles and machinery on your farm.

Use Signage: Inform visitors and contractors and remind staff of your biosecurity and hygiene measures and identify any problem areas on your farm to prevent weeds or pests from spreading.

Check Crops: Monitor your crops frequently. Knowing the usual crop appearance will help you recognize new or unusual pests or plant symptoms. Keep written and photographic records of all unusual observations. Constant vigilance is vital for early detection of any exotic or new endemic plant pests.

Abide by the Law: Support and be aware of laws and regulations established to protect crop production and other horticultural industries.

Reporting: Report any unusual sightings of insects, snails, worms, leaf damages etc. to PHSD.

Biosecurity essentials

The best defense against pests and diseases is to implement sound biosecurity practices on your farm. Quick and simple measures built into everyday practice will help protect your farm and your future.

Farm inputs

Almost anything moved onto your property can be a potential source of pests and diseases for plants. To reduce the biosecurity risks to your property monitor plant materials that enter the property, including sources of water, animal feed (in cases where crops and livestock are developed on the same property), insecticides, fertilizers, and equipment.

Farmers have an important role to play in protecting the country’s agriculture industry from biosecurity threats. Keep records of all farm inputs (and outputs) so that you can trace-back or trace-forward in the event of a pest incursion or disease outbreak.

Feed

There is a high potential for diseases, pests and weeds to be carried in feed and water supplies. To protect the health of your crops, it is important to minimize the risks associated with feed and water.

Purchasing Feed

Ensure all feed purchased is free from unwanted weeds, soil and pests.

  • Always request a Commodity Vendor Declaration (CVD) and ensure any feed you purchase is fit for purpose.
  • Ensure you know the expiry date of any feed you purchase and use it before that date or dispose of it safely.
  • Ispect feed to ensure that it does not contain a high ratio of weed seeds that could propagate on the property.
  • Keep feed in a clean, dry storage area.
  • Keep feed stores covered to prevent feed from becoming wet and mouldy.
  • Regularly inspect feed supplies to ensure they remain secured and fit for purpose.
  • Clean feed troughs regularly to avoid faecal contamination
  • Dispose of old or contaminated feed safely, keeping it away from livestock and securing it from pests and diseases.
  • Clean any feed spills promptly to prevent spread around the property by wind or other means (vehicle wheels, clothing etc.)
  • Do not feed pigs swill of any kind.
  • Ensure all staff are aware swill feeding is illegal.
  • Prevent visitors orpassers-by from feeding livestock.

Water supply and storage

Many pests and diseases can survive for a long time in water until they find another host, so it is important to ensure water remains uncontaminated.

In addition, diseases, pests and weed seeds are easily distributed by flowing water.

  • Regularly inspect water sources and ensure they are secured from access by wild/feral animals.
  • Keep water troughs high enough to minimise contamination by animal faeces.
  • Clean water troughs regularly to prevent build up of contaminants.
  • Cover water sources where possible to prevent faecal contamination by wild animals.
  • Don’t allow water to stagnate as it may attract insects and other pests that can spread disease.
  • Regularly inspect any water storage tanks to ensure they have not been compromised by wild/feral animals or chemically contaminated.
  • Ensure weed seeds and pests cannot gain access to secure areas of the property through water distribution channels.
  • Check areas around waterways for new weeds.
  • Increase monitoring for new weeds after flooding

Recycled water

Recycled water can come from roof run-off, storm water, agricultural effluent, irrigation run-off, or wastewater from food processing.

The A-D classification system is based on treatments to destroy microbes. It does not consider other contaminants, such as salt, chemicals or nutrients, which can also affect the health of plants and livestock.

  • Follow all legal requirements in relation to the reuse of wastewater reuse.
  • Use signs and lable taps to warn others about the use of recycled water.
  • Use purple coloured pipe or tape, the universal standard for recycled water.
  • Make sure pumps etc are secure and access to them is restricted.
  • Avoid over irrigating and creating runoff.
  • Use drip irrigation for recycled water where possible to avoid aerosol formation
  • Avoid contamination of marketable produce.
  • Keep records of treatments, procedures and irrigation regimes.
  • Observe withholding periods for fodder crops. The withholding period depends on the treatment the wastewater has received and the type of use.
  • Make sure livestock cannot drink from pool water contaminated with wastewater or from wastewater storage dams.
  • Warn employees to avoid exposure to waste water, to wash their hands and remove boots etc after contact.
  • Prevent algal blooms by aerating or treating water that is high in nutrients and is stored in dams.
  • Prevent young and vulnerable stock from grazing pastures irrigated with recycled effluent for the ‘withholding period’ after each irrigation.
  • Use filtration, UV radiation or chlorination to treat water to prevent the spread of plant diseases in recycled drainage water.
  • Always request a National Vendor Declaration (NVD) and animal health statement and any other records of the stock’s health status.
  • Keep a record of where the livestock have come from. This may involve uploading information to the NLIS database as well.
  • Buy stock from a trusted source and inspect them before you purchase.
  • Be aware of the cleaning and hygiene practices of the transport provider/s.
  • Inspect stock on arrival to make sure they are healthy and in the same condition as when you purchased them; seek advice from a vet if necessary.
  • Isolate new stock for a period of 10 days to allow any signs of disease to emerge, and to allow time for weed seeds to be excreted by the animals. Monitor and manage these areas for new pests and diseases.
  • When taking animals to shows and sales, remember that your stock can be exposed to disease by mixing with other animals or coming into contact with contaminated pens, vehicles, people and equipment.
  • Therefore, additional steps need to be taken to ensure the health of any plant material that is brought onto, or taken off, your property. To ensure good hygiene, please follow the recommended measures outlined in the Production practices section of this website.
  • Source certified seed or propagation material.
  • Request a vendor declaration form or equivalent, where possible.
  • Only purchase plant material from sources that take biosecurity, hygiene, health testing and record keeping seriously.
  • Ask your supplier where the propagation material was originally sourced.
  • Inspect materials when they arrive and store away from other plant products.
  • Ensure the transport provider for planting material follows the cleaning and hygiene practices in place on your property.
  • Keep records of your crop or plantation propagation material, including its source (with contact details), cultivar or rootstock details and where and when it was planted.
  • Regularly check newly planted areas for the appearance of pests or unusual symptoms to ensure any new pests can be contained before spreading to other areas of your property.
  • To minimise the risk:
  • check your propagation material and production nursery inputs thoroughly
  • maintain a register of all production nursery inputs entering your property, including its source (with contact details), specific planting or storage locations, numbers of plants or other products, and the date of use
  • request information on the source of material and testing timetable
  • follow the procedures outlined in the BioSecure HACCP manual .

Fertilizer

Reduce the risk of purchasing contaminated or non-compliant fertilizer by ensuring that the supplier is reputable and has internationally approved quality controls in place.

Organic fertilizer can carry weed seeds and diseases. Ensure that animal manure and green waste is aged and thoroughly composted to destroy weed seeds and diseases. Maintain a record of sources of organic fertilizers, delivery and application dates etc.

Farm chemicals

Chemical residues can result in produce being rejected from export and domestic markets. In addition, most plant produce ends up being used as human food, and even fed to livestock, so inappropriate use or application of pesticides can pose a risk to human health, particularly through the presence of chemical residues.

  • Ensure your staff has had appropriate training and advice on the safe use of pesticides.
  • Always follow label instructions (dilution and application rates, expiry date, and disposal of residues).
  • Keep a spray diary of herbicide, pesticide and fumigation treatments for crops and adhere to withdrawal periods.
  • Review Turks and Caicos Islands agriculture legislations to check details about regulations for agricultural chemicals.
  • Consult PHSD frequently for information regarding chemical regulations as regulations may be updated regularly.)

Misuse of many types of chemicals can lead to the development of resistance to pests, potentially creating new biosecurity risks and management challenges.

Planting and propagation material

Visually assessing the health of your planting material is not enough, as it can carry diseases, pests or weed seeds that cannot be seen with the naked eye.

Therefore, additional steps need to be taken to ensure the health of any plant material that is brought onto, or taken off, your property. Use the following guidelines:

  • Source certified seed or propagation material.
  • Request a vendor declaration form or equivalent, where possible.
  • Only purchase plant material from sources that take biosecurity, hygiene, health testing and record keeping seriously.
  • Ask your supplier where the propagation material was originally sourced.
  • Inspect materials when they arrive and store away from other plant products.
  • Ensure the transport provider for planting material follows the cleaning and hygiene practices in place on your property.
  • Keep records of your crop or plantation propagation material, including its source (with contact details), cultivar or rootstock details and where and when it was planted.
  • Regularly check newly planted areas for the appearance of pests or unusual symptoms to ensure any new pests can be contained before spreading to other areas of your property.

Growing media and plant containers

Pests and contamination can be easily brought onto your property with production nursery inputs and plant material. Ensure propagation material is ‘clean’ (i.e. tested with no pest detections) and where possible, use only certified production nursery inputs.

To minimize the risk:

  • check your propagation material and production nursery inputs thoroughly
  • maintain a register of all production nursery inputs entering your property, including its source (with contact details), specific planting or storage locations, numbers of plants or other products, and the date of use
  • request information on the source of material and testing timetable

These documents outline the recommended on farm biosecurity practices that aim to reduce the risk of pests. Other resources for vegetable producers are also listed below. The vegetable industry section also includes information about specific pests and management practices.

Hive biosecurity is also important to some vegetable crops. The Biosecurity Manual for the Honey Bee Industry contains information to protect the health of honey bees and maintain production levels of vegetables dependent on fertilization.

  1. PLANT PEST SURVEILLANCE

Plant protection is an important factor influencing crop production. and T timely pest surveillance and monitoring is one of are the pre-requisites for the collection of information on incidence of pest and/ or disease, in order to execute proper preventative measures to avoid any economic loss to field crops, horticulture, and/ or natural vegetation due to plant pests and diseases.

Plant Health Services Division is mandated to develop and implement a comprehensive pest surveillance program, monitoring activities at the ports of entry, on-farms, plant nurseries, and also conducting laboratory examination of specimens.

Surveillance involves looking for and recording the presence, absence and population levels of pests. Conducting regular monitoring is a fundamental part of plant protection and quarantine and gives the best chance of spotting a new pest soon after it arrives. Pest surveillance is necessary for:

Exotic pest eradication

Early detection of exotic pests improves the chance of eradication or containment within a region. However, if eradication or containment are not feasible, early detection in conjunction with contingency planning and preparedness by government and industry bodies (e.g. preparing emergency chemical registrations, permits for importation of bio-control agents, awareness material and training in pest diagnostics), assists with a more rapid and effective response. To this end, several surveys are ongoing and others are planned for the future.

Detection Surveys for Tephritid Fruit Fly and Moko Disease are two of the ongoing surveillance activities that Plant Health Services has implemented. A Detection Survey is conducted to determine the presence or absence of a pest in a defined area.

Fruit Fly Survey: Detection Surveys are ongoing for fruit flies on the islands of Providenciales, North Caicos, and Grand Turk respectively. Traplines are set up and monitored consistently for the presence of tephritid fruit flies. The United States Department of Agriculture/Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA/APHIS) supports the program with materials,resources and technical advice.

The Moko Disease (Ralstonia solanacearum) survey is a program initiated by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).   This survey is being conducted on all of the inhabited islands of the Turks and Caicos to determine the presence or absence of the bacterium responsible for Moko Disease.

Market access

Export and domestic markets require ‘evidence of absence’ data for exotic and some established pests that are of concern. The Turks and Caicos Islands plant production sector, in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture, must establish robust, strategic pest surveillance to satisfy local and international consumers’ confidence that pests of concern have been looked for and found to be absent.

Improved pest management

Management of established pests requires regular inspections to determine population levels to improve management decisions.

Pest status information

Surveillance at the farms and ports of entry contributes essential information to regional biosecurity efforts and ultimately to the national status (presence/absence) of a pest.

All pest (exotic and established) surveillance activities carried out on your property should be recorded. These records can be used in the response to a pest outbreak and provide support to industry surveillance activities. The addition of exotic pests to current datasheets is an effective recording mechanism.

Organic Practices

Organic standards require pest management practices to prevent pest incursions. Strategies include, the removal of pest habitat, food sources and breeding areas, as well as preventing the access of pests to processing areas. Monitoring strategies for pests are integral components of an Organic Management Plan.

Pest and disease monitoring tools can include the installation of traps (such as Jackson, McPhail, Multilure, Pitfall and Light traps), coupled with the use of Pheromones, Para-pheromones, and Protein baits. Further, disease forecasting and modeling can be done using crop import data. Regular and thorough monitoring of weeds can prevent isolated plants turning into large incursions. Many organic farmers check their crops and pastures with a weeding hoe on hand.

Beneficial surveillance

An integrated approach to pest management is important in controlling unwanted pests within an organic farming system. One element might be encouraging beneficial insects or pathogens that naturally occur within your farming system, to prey on, parasitize or attack unwanted pests (‘beneficials’). Knowing the ‘beneficials’ that live on, or in the vicinity of, your farm can help to keep pest populations at levels that do not require control, or stop them from spreading onto your farm from neighbouring areas. Surveillance for ‘beneficials’ can be as useful as monitoring pest populations.

Knowledge of the ‘beneficials’ present around your farm may also lead to practices that can encourage them. This may involve including areas of plant species that encourage the build-up of particular ‘beneficials’ such as strips of a specific crop species or larger areas of trees along boundaries. Consider the insects you wish to encourage when you choose the species to plant. These plantings can have the additional benefit of providing a physical barrier between farms, and to protect the farm from spray drift.

  1. PEST DETECTION AND IDENTIFICATION

The Pest Detection and Identification program is a crucial element of the plant health initiative to safeguard the Turks and Caicos Islands agriculture by ensuring that new introductions of harmful plant pests and diseases are detected as soon as possible, i.e. before they have a chance to cause significant damage.  A strong domestic agricultural pest detection system is an essential element in providing a continuum of checks, including phytosanitary documentation review, domestic port inspections, and crop farm surveys. 

The following protocol is established for pest detection and identification:

  1. Suspected pest is detected by a farmer, gardener, or an agriculture extension officer;
  2. Following the detection of the suspected exotic pest; the information must be reported immediately to the Department of Agriculture via telephone number 649-946-5801, or email address: agriculture@gov.tc, or walk-in report.
  3. After reporting to the Department of Agriculture, the information must be cascaded to the Chief Plant Protection Officer (CPPO) within 24 hours of initial identification.
  4. The CPPO will duly notify the Director of Agriculture and Permanent Secretary responsible.
  5. Following the detection or reporting of the pest, Plant Health Services may collect samples of the pest and/ or host, and seek a positive identification via laboratory analysis and collaboration with international experts for confirmation on identification.
  6. Upon confirmed identification, the CPPO will develop an Action Plan for the eradication and / or implementation of control measures to prevent spread within the islands.
  7. Information on the pest detection and concomitant Action Plan will be disseminated to the media, farmers, and other relevant stakeholders.

These efforts are accomplished by involving stakeholders and the scientific community, and leveraging efforts by other stakeholders such as DEMA, TCI National Trust, and the Customs Department.

  1. PRODUCT RECALL AND PEST ALERT

Recalls for agricultural articles occur quite frequently in the United States of American and Canada for a myriad of reasons, including bacterial and viral contamination, and suspected pest infestation. Plant Health Services pay keen attention to these recalls since food safety and environmental protection are key elements of the division’s mandate.

It is imperative the PHSD rapidly identify the products implicated in the recalls and take proactive steps to notify importers, distributors and consumers of the nature of the recall and what steps must be taken to avoid food poisoning or environmental pollution.

  1. POST ENTRY QUARANTINE

The Post Entry Quarantine function ensures that potential risk materials such as imported germplasm, seeds for propagation, plants and other plant propagation materials are properly inspected and monitored to mitigate the introduction of new pests into the Turks and Caicos Islands.

In the absence of a designated plant quarantine facility, PHSD takes extra precaution with the activation of all relevant risk mitigation tools to ensure that only materials of no or negligible risks are allowed to enter.

In some instances, the importer may be required to allow the imported material to remain confined at a private location for further monitoring. Such monitoring could entail laboratory testing, traceback, and / or review of additional background information.

  1. DISASTER MANAGEMENT

The unit conducts post disaster assessment of crop damage after a flood or any natural or man-made incidents that result in crop damage.

  1. PEST RISK ANALYSIS

A Pest Risk Analysis (PRA) is conducted for new commodities and or pests that may pose a threat to the country’ agriculture sector.

  1. CROP EXTENSION

Crop extension is a general term meaning the application of scientific research and new knowledge to agricultural practices through farmer education. The field of 'extension' now encompasses a wider range of communication and learning activities organized for rural people by educators from different disciplines, including agriculture, agricultural marketing, health, and business studies.

Many Turks and Caicos Islanders on North Caicos, in particular, rely partly on their crops as a means of subsistence. For these small scale farmers, plant pests, plant diseases, and hazardous environmental conditions are a constant threat. Failed crops mean a loss of income and little money to buy food.

Plant Health Services believes that holding Plant Clinics on these islands would help the farmers deal with pests and diseases and other plant health problems.

PHSD plans to work with local farmers and other stakeholders on the islands to provide small scale farmers with access to pertinent advice through the plant clinic. These clinics operate like a human doctor’s surgery; they provide advice on demand, tailored to the farmer’s individual need.

How the plant clinics work?

The clinics are made accessible to farmers by holding them on a regular basis in a prominent local meeting place, such as a market or on a farm. When the farmers have a problem with a crop, he/she can bring a sample along to the plant clinic. At the clinic a trained 'plant doctor' listens to the farmer, examines the sample, diagnoses the problem and offers a suggested treatment. Treatment suggestions are affordable for farmers and use locally available resources. The correct chemicals are recommended only when necessary.

With access to these services farmers can tackle pests and diseases and produce healthy crops and have productive yields. With successful harvests, farmers can feed and support their families.

Diagnosis is not always straightforward. Sometimes plant doctors need to send samples to a laboratory (in exactly the same way that a family doctor sends samples to a hospital’s laboratory). PHSD has a basic laboratory facility where samples can be analyzed in detail. However, the unit has links with external laboratories that can conduct such services at a higher level.

PLANT HEALTH

Regulated Articles – A  regulated article is any plant, plant product, storage place, packaging, conveyance, container, soil and any other organism, object or material capable of harbouring or spreading pests, deemed to require phytosanitary measures, particularly where international transportation is involved [FAO, 1990; revised FAO, 1995; IPPC, 1997].

Regulated articles have the potential to harbor and spread deleterious plant pests and diseases that are potentially detrimental to the agriculture industry of any country. Such pests and diseases include Tephritid fruit flies, mealy bugs, scale mites, Giant African Snails, Lethal Yellowing, and Citrus Greening, to name a few. The Turks and Caicos Islands is at risk to these pests and diseases as a result of their existence in our neighboring countries coupled with the high level of trade that occurs amongst these countries. It is therefore imperative that Plant Health Services Division implement and maintain appropriate phytosanitary measures to prevent the ingress of such pests and diseases into the Turks and Caicos Islands. The phytosanitary measures adopted are in congruence with the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) recommendations for conducting diagnostic services, inspecting and sampling of regulated articles.

In addition to our efforts to prevent the incursion of pests and diseases, PHSD is equally concerned with keeping invasive plant species out, protecting the environment and native flora.

All regulated articles intended for importation into the Turks and Caicos Islands require the issuance of an Import Permit from Plant Health Services. Some of the regulated articles that are imported on a regular basis are as follows:

  • Live plants
  • Cut Flowers
  • Seeds for Propagation
  • Germplasm
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Soil
  • Animal Feed of plant origin
  • Annelids (earthworms)

Live plants - any member of the kingdom Plantae, comprising multicellular organisms that typically produce their own food from inorganic matter by the process of photosynthesis and that have more or less rigid cell walls containing cellulose, including vascular plants, mosses, liverworts, and hornworts: some classification schemes may include fungi, algae, bacteria, blue-green algae, and certain single-celled eukaryotes that have plantlike qualities, as rigid cell walls or photosynthesis.

Some of the commonly imported plants are of the following families: Palmaceae, Fabaceae, Solanaceae, Malvaceae, Euphobaceae, Asteraceae, Mucaceae, Liliaceae, Combretaceae, Moraceae, Clusiaceae, Polygonaceae, Cactaceae, Bougainvilleaceae, Agavaceae, Ponceae, Orchidaceae, and Rubiaceae among many others.

Some plants are listed as restricted and/or invasive and are therefore prohibited or require special permits for their importation. Some others are listed on the Convention for International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) compendium and therefore require a CITES permit as a mandatory component of the application process for their importation into the Turks and Caicos Islands. A CITES permit must be issued by the competent authority for agriculture/forestry in the exporting country. Some plants of Orchidaceae, Cactaceae, Zygophyllales, and Meliaceae families require a CITES permit prior to importation into the Turks and Caicos Islands. Any importer who is desirous of importing plants of the aforementioned families must request a complete list of the CITES listed plants for the Turks and Caicos.

Cut Flowers – This is a commodity class for fresh parts of plants intended for decorative use and not for planting. Cut flowers are potential carriers of deleterious plant pests and must be certified for import and inspected in accordance with national phytosanitary protocol to safeguard plant health. Some of the common pests of cut flowers are: Whiteflies, Thrips, Mites, Caterpillars, Moths, Slugs, Snails, Aphids, Leafhoppers, and Leafminers.

Some of the commonly imported families of cut flower species are: Rosaceae, Araceae, Caryophyllales, Hydrangeaceae, Orchidaceae, Asteraceae, Asparagaceae, and Paradisaeidae.

Seeds for Propagation – This is a commodity class for seeds for planting or intended for planting and not for consumption or processing. Any quantity of seeds for propagation can be imported. However, commercial importation of seeds for propagation requires a Seed Analysis Certificate. Seed Analysis Certificates can be obtained from an official seed testing facility with accreditation from the International Seed Testing Association (ISTA).

The seed analysis certificate is a certificate documenting the purity and germination of a seed lot taken at a particular point in time. The purity is the percentage of actual seed of the species requested in the seed lot. It is expressed as a percent pure seed. The weeds, crops seed and inert plant material are accounted for and expressed as a per cent of the seed lot that is not pure seed. Germination percentage refers to the percent germination of the seed. It is the number out of 100 seeds that germinate over 4 to 21 days.

Germplasm: Plants intended for use in breeding or conservation programmes. Germplasm may be stored as a seed collection or, for trees, in a nursery.

Germplasm is living tissue from which new plants can be grown. It can be a seed or another plant part – a leaf, a piece of stem, pollen or even just a few cells that can be turned into a whole plant. Germplasm contains the information for a species’ genetic makeup, a valuable natural resource of plant diversity.

Fruits & Vegetables: A commodity class for fresh parts of plants intended for consumption or processing and not for planting. A wide variety of fruits and vegetables are imported into the Turks and Caicos on a regular basis. These articles are imported from the United States of America, Dominican Republic and Haiti respectively for commercial purposes. However, air travelers also import these articles from other countries for personal use.

Soil: Soil is the mixture of minerals, organic matter, gases, liquids and a myriad of organisms that can support plant life. It is a natural body that exists as part of the pedosphere and it performs four important functions: it is a medium for plant growth; it is a means of water storage, supply and purification; it is a modifier of the atmosphere; and it is a habitat for organisms that take part in decomposition and creation of a habitat for other organisms.

Bagged topsoil is imported into the Turks and Caicos Islands on a commercial scale. These consignments require the issuance of a phytosanitary certificate from the exporting country for their importation into the TCI. Loosed or Bulked Soil for agriculture purposes can be imported as well. However, in addition to a phytosanitary certificate, loosed soil must go through a sampling and laboratory testing regime in the exporting country. The soil must be analyzed for parameters such as pathogenic bacteria, viruses, nematodes, fungus, and toxic chemicals.

Animal Feed of Plant Origin: The most common animal feed imported into the Turks and Caicos Islands is Hay.  Hay is grass, legumes or other herbaceous plants that have been cut, dried, and stored for use as animal fodder, particularly for grazing livestock such as cattle, horses, goats, and sheep. Hay is also fed to pets such as rabbits and guinea pigs. Hay can be infested with a myriad of quarantine plant pests and diseases, which must be monitored. Some of the pests and diseases that affect hay are weevil, aphids, armyworm, cutworm, leaf spot, downy mildew, root rot, phytophora root rot, bacterial wilt, and root-knot nematodes.

Feeds or feed ingredients must not contain viable seeds, and whole seeds must undergo heating/irradiation during processing.

Annelids: any worms of the phylum Annelida, in which the body is divided into segments both externally and internally. The group includes the earthworms, lugworm, ragworm, and leeches. Some species belonging to this phylum are imported into the Turks and Caicos Islands for soil enrichment and research purposes.

Biography – Dexter Gordon

Mr. Dexter Gordon is the Chief Plant Protection Officer (CPPO) of the Department of Agriculture. He has professional training in both plant and animal science, and has worked in both areas over his 19 year career within the sector. He gained his Associates Degree in Animal Health and Veterinary Public Health at the Regional Educational Programme for Animal Health Assistants (REPAHA); and Bachelors in Agriculture Science at the University of Guyana. Mr. Gordon is currently a final year MPhil agriculture student at the University of the West Indies.

What We Do

The Plant Health Services Division within the Department of Agriculture is responsible for ensuring that the members of the plant/crop farming communities, importers of plant and plant products and the exporters of plant and plant products are equipped to grow, import and export plants and plants products that are healthy and free of plant pest and diseases. 

The Plant Health Services Division is headed by the Chief Plant Protection Officers who oversee the operation of the Division and the supervision of the Quarantine Officers.

The functions of the Plant Health Services Division are to:

  1. Facilitate the importation of regulated articles daily through, issuing Application to Import Regulated Articles, reviewing applications and supporting documents and issuing an Import Permit once all conditions for importation are satisfied.
  2. Facilitate the exporting of regulated articles by issuing Phytosanitary Certificate Application. Inspecting and treating the regulated article (s) to be exported and issuing the applicant with a Phytosanitary Certificate on the completion of a satisfactorily inspection and treatment of the regulated articles.
  3. Facilitate the inspection of plant establishments such as crop farms, landscaping businesses and nurseries to be licensed or to be registered with the Department of Agriculture as having a plant operation in the Turks and Caicos Islands.
  4. Facilitate the inspection of regulated articles at the designated Ports of Entry (Air and Sea) within the Turks and Caicos Islands

OR

  1. Farm Inspection
  2. Farm Registration
  3. Nursery Inspection
  4. Nursery Registration
  5. Review and Approve applications to import regulated articles
  6. Issue Import Permits for regulated articles
  7. Review application to export regulated articles
  8. Inspect and treat regulates articles for export
  9. Issue Phytosanitary Certificates
  10. Conduct inspections of regulated at the Ports of Entry (Sea and Air)
  11. Conduct Pest and Disease Surveillance
  12. Conduct training activities
  13. Facilitate Stakeholder Meetings
  14. Facilitate Radio Programmes
  15. Prepare and distribute educational material
Publications

Application Forms

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