September 13, 2022

Dr Lisa Myers Morgan: Protecting the local agricultural sector from pests and viruses

Science and Technology Minister Daryl Vaz presents a plaque to S&T XXtrordineers winner Dr Lisa Myers-Morgan at the launch of the program on July 14.

Plant health specialist Dr Lisa Myers Morgan is leading the charge locally to ensure Jamaica’s agricultural sector is protected from pests and viruses that could wreak havoc on the country’s food supplies.

A graduate of Lady of the Angel Preparatory School and Immaculate Conception High School, she has literally been working in the fields for nearly 30 years now.

Myers Morgan says she fell in love with science around the age of six, when she was considering becoming a doctor.

What made her so confident about pursuing science?

“I have a God-given talent for memorizing and recording details and was keen to understand how things worked,” she said.

After leaving high school, Myers Morgan enrolled at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, where she graduated in 1991 with a BSc in Biochemistry, with a minor in Botany.

After being selected as a candidate for the UWI Mexico Link Exchange Program, Myers Morgan attended the Instituto de Fitosanidad del Colegio de Postgraduados in Mexico where she was trained in research methodologies at the Graduate School of Plant Pathology in Research on plant viruses.

“That’s how my career as a plant virologist began,” she revealed. And, it has been an impressive career that has seen her do many interventions that have greatly benefited the local agricultural sector.

An impressive string of accomplishments has followed her since completing her Masters of Philosophy in Botany and becoming interested in the epidemiology and management of insect-borne plant viruses.

His list of accomplishments over more than two decades of working with the Department of Agriculture in leadership positions, including that of Chief Plant Protection Officer and Senior Director of Research, is listed below. below:

-Study of virus reservoirs and the epidemiology of virus propagation in the context of the design and development of a phytosanitary management program for virus vectors of aphids.

-Leaded research that discovered a weed species that served as a source of tobacco etch virus and a breeding host for one of its main vectors of aphids in pepper fields. The nature of the spread of the virus in the pepper fields has been determined. Management of the weed and other identified weed hosts is now part of the integrated virus management program in hot pepper production systems.

-Worked extensively during the 1990s on other aphid vector viruses, including Citrus Tristeza virus (CTV) which was devastating citrus crops across the island.

– Conducted surveys on the management of other types of plant diseases impacting crop production, including ginger rhizome rot and cucurbit downy mildews.

When she’s not finding solutions for farmers in the field, Dr. Myers Morgan is busy researching knowledge in the classroom. A trailblazer, in 2003 she completed the Doctor of Plant Medicine (DPM) program at the University of Florida. This was the first such program in the Western Hemisphere.

Upon her return to Jamaica, Myers Morgan returned to public service, returning to the Department of Agriculture as Plant Protection Officer, a position she held from 1998 to 2007. She currently serves in an interim position at the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) where, among other things, she leads a team trying to solve a mysterious watermelon disorder affecting farmers in St Elizabeth and Manchester.

She sees her work, which includes mentoring young researchers and extension workers, as key to building the talent pool needed to protect the local food supply for domestic and export markets.

Dr Myers Morgan said that when farmers are successful, the productivity of communities and their contribution to gross domestic product also increases.