Several months ago I visited relatives in the breadbasket region of Southern Manchester and St. Elizabeth , Jamaica . While admiring a seemingly endless field of watermelons with great relish and anticipation, I was jarred by the bizarre exclamation of a befuddled farmer, “dem no good sah, not even fi feed hog.”
“Why?” I sheepishly exclaimed. Without saying a word the frustrated farmer wielded his trusty machete and in a flash sliced opens a half a dozen of these huge watermelons. I immediately saw the source of his discontent. They were market ready yet internally they were a sickly pale pink with an equally sickly fresh taste. No money was to be made on this crop and I lamented the fact that literally thousands of market ready watermelons laid unwanted in the hot noon day sun, eventually to rot in place.
“What caused this?” I enquired.” A shrug of the shoulders was all I could extract from my dejected farmer. For myself not being an agricultural specialist or not having taken a botany course, ever, I was hopelessly devoid of any answers. So it then seemed. I nevertheless was struck by the extreme heat and light intensity of the locale and intuitively felt that there was a connection between the energy or insolation and our sickly watermelon.
I pursued this connection over several months and gained valuable insights into an area of which we as Jamaicans must master if our society is to prosper, neigh survive, namely: as the effect of climate change and global warming become more pronounced, we must begin to implement adaptive and mitigation measures to safeguard and increase our agricultural production, water production and the bolstering of our people’s immune response system, as the climate change induced challenges will be far reaching and dramatic at times.
We are already beginning to see evidence of this in low rainfall for the island and a world-wide pandemic as new environmental conditions bring forth new opportunistic viruses, bacteria and other microbial life forms which will compete for existence with us. But this article is about watermelons after all and I will refrain from further digressions.
When exposed to stressful conditions such as high light intensity and high temperatures, the hallmark of the breadbasket region of Jamaica, the stomata (tiny pores used by plants to absorb atmospheric carbon dioxide – CO2), closes, reducing the uptake of carbon dioxide. This can stop plant growth for several hours during the hottest period of the day and importantly reduce the amount of carbon required to produce C3 sugars, which gives our watermelons their delightful taste – hence, our fresh tasting and unpalatable watermelons.
It is postulated by scientist, Nobel laureate Dr. George Olah, that methanol, a simple and simply produced alcohol can be used effectively and economically to solve this problem. Methanol when sprayed on the plants is rapidly absorbed by the foliage and metabolized to sugars, producing a sweet, juicy watermelon, as it should be.
JAMES (Jamaicans for a Modern Energy Sector), is requesting the Government of Jamaica, in this regard and in light of the recently inaugurated “Center of Excellence” at Bodles in St Catherine, to undertake the experimental verification and field testing of this process to aid future production of watermelons and other crops, in the high production breadbasket region of Jamaica, and elsewhere across the island.
I returned to the area having gleaned a solution and with much relish and anticipation sought out my melon farmer. Having poured out my solution he asked me, “Do you think our government will do anything about this?” All I could muster was a shrug of the shoulders and again I knew intuitively the answer!
Trevor (EnergyMan) Bogle is founder, JAMES (Jamaicans for a Modern Energy Sector) Bogle108@yahoo.com