Chen-Cheng Huang, the Taiwanese Agriculture Technician stationed at the Cades Bay Demonstration Farm of Nevis, is harboring a dream to turn the island of Nevis into an island of the pineapple. Will his dream come true or is it only wishful thinking? According to Mr. Huang, who is set to retire in 2009 from his 30 plus years as a Taiwanese Mission technician, Nevis has all the comparative advantages to produce a multitude of pineapples. “There are 5000 plants in one Nevisian farm now and I am going to release 12,000 seedlings next month. Another 25,000 will be ready in three months. After one year there are 30,000 available from his demonstration farm. Nevis will have more than 100,000 pineapples by the end of 2010,” Mr. Huang calculated. Pineapple is the common name of the ananas comosus, which originates from the southern part of Brazil. It is a tropical plant bearing a large, fleshy, edible fruit with a terminal tuft of stiff leaves and is widely cultivated in the tropics. The pineapple is an example of a manifold fruit: multiple, spirally-arranged flowers along the axis each produce a fleshy fruit that becomes pressed against the fruits of adjacent flowers, forming what appears to be a single fruit. Pineapple is well known for helping digestion since it contains the proteolytic enzyme bromelain, which breaks down protein. It is widely appreciated by Nevisians for its fragrant sweetness. In Taiwan, there are 21 different species of pineapples, ranging from so-called Taiwan Agriculture (TA) no. 1 through no. 21, which was identified and named as the Milk pineapple in 2005. The pineapples are named according to their shape, leaf formation, and taste, such as the Banana pineapple, Sugar Cane pineapple, Perfume pineapple, Gold pineapple, Diamond pineapple and others. After more than two years of experimenting, the of TA no. 4 species, also known as the Sugar Apple pineapple, was chosen by Mr. Huang to be promoted in Nevis Island. This unique species is characterized by its long thorny leaves, soft seed coat, tender core and sweet meat. When challenged with the island’s monkey problem, Mr. Huang says that the long thorny leaves of the Sugar Apple pineapple will protect the fruit from monkey’s attack. Even humans find it difficult to traverse the intensive pineapple farm when the plants start to bear fruit. Mr. Huang suggests tying the thorny leaves together along the edge of the field, so as to construct a strong “pineapple fortress”. “With a row distance of 120 centimeters and of 50 plants in a row, experimental pineapples in the Cades Demonstration Farm stand like waves of victorious, parading soldiers. One can hardly find space among the thorny pineapple leaves. Technically, growing pineapples is neither arduous nor time consuming. Since pineapples can resist drought and even survive on only the morning dew, it is not necessary to water them once the plantation is established. One acre of land is good for 12,000 plants and it takes 15 to 16 months to harvest pineapple fruits. One mature pineapple fruit weights at 4 to 5 pounds and costs around 10 EC at the wholesale price. Conservatively speaking, seedling and fertilizer for one pineapple cost less than 2 EC. The Ministry of Agriculture on Nevis Island is cooperating with the Taiwan Technical Mission to promote pineapple cultivation on the Island. The response is quite promising. Mr. Huang spares no efforts to introduce his TA no. 4 Sugar Apple pineapple to Nevisian farmers and he is racing time, since he plans to retire in one year. Can the veteran Taiwanese agriculture technician turn the Island of Nevis into the “Island of the Pineapple”?
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