Improving crop consistency

GIS:-Agriculture Ministry says Working with Greenhouses can Result in Steady Harvests, Year Round.

The Ministry of Agriculture is encouraging farmers to adopt farming practices that can result in steady economic gains.

Kemuel Jn Baptiste, Chief Extension Officer in the Extension and Advisory Services Unit, said a cyclical farming approach can help farmers maintain consistency and secure a market for local produce.

“A few things have challenged our consistency in this country. In as much as we have invested heavily as a country in terms of irrigation and infrastructure, agriculture is still very heavily dependent on rain–it is what you call rain fed. Because it is rain fed, and with the added challenges of increased temperatures in the dry season, and increased rainfall intensity in the wet season, it creates a lot of uncertainty for the farmer who is working in the open field. So he may plant a lot of vegetables but there is no guarantee that he will see it all the way to the end,” Mr Jn Baptiste explained.

“This means that although a farmer made a commitment to a buyer to produce a certain amount at a certain time, because there are so many variables, there is no guarantee that he will have it ready. Now because that uncertainty exists, we are bombarded by imports.”

While greenhouses help improve the consistency of produce, the farmers’ lack of upkeep has resulted in some losses. Mr Jn Baptiste said that although greenhouses provide some security against the loss of crops, frequent maintenance is necessary to ensure that crops perform well.

“For many years now, the farmers produce the first few crop cycles using greenhouses, and then they stop because the plastic gets damaged and there’s no commitment or no resources set aside to replace it. The other thing that farmers do not pay attention to is the condition of the soil in greenhouses. In the soil there is a buildup of pathogens, and little effort is expended in trying to deal with it, so farmers start having crop failures, become frustrated, and leave the facility.”

Mr Jn Baptiste said working cyclically with greenhouses in the proper manner will help counteract such losses.

“What we are saying as ministry is these facilities exist and you can work with them cyclically. During the dry season you can allow them to sit idle because then you don’t need an umbrella to produce your crops. Instead you expose them to the sun, what we call solarization, and when the rainy season begins you cover over and you begin to produce. I’m saying all this to say that if we do not maintain consistency in the market, the person who is buying from you, whether it is hotelier or a supplier, if you can’t deliver they will find another source, and that source very often represents a foreign source.”

The Ministry of Agriculture stresses that with proper greenhouse farming practices, farmers can ensure consistent production, and as a result, benefit from a predictable income, year round.