|Seated at the head table, Chief Agricultural Officer, Ralph Farnum (left, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, NULL, NULL, 0); Deputy Chief Agricultural Officer (Ag), Dr. Dennis??Blackman (centre) and Agronomist, Stevenson Skeete (right). (A.Skeete/BGIS)??|
A senior agricultural official believes that continued investment in low-cost agricultural technology by local farmers will not only assist in reducing their operating costs but augurs well for the sustainability of the sector.
This is the view of Chief Agricultural Officer (Ag), in the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management, Ralph Farnum, who said the Ministry was actively exploring the use of farming technology which could not only lower input costs but boost crop production.??
He was speaking during the third in a series of farmers’ workshops on How to Build Tropical Row Covers at Brereton, St. Philip, last Friday.
Citing the benefits of using tropical row covers, Mr. Farnum said the technology was not only inexpensive and easy to construct, but research at the Ministry of Agriculture had shown they greatly improved the quality and quantity of the crops.
"This row cover technology is low-cost…We had on trial about four crops so far and with the same row covers, you got about five times the production compared to growing such crops in the open field. This improved crop was not only in terms of the quality of the product, but the size as well," he pointed out.
Mr. Farnum suggested that with the increased quality of crops, farmers would be able to fetch better returns on the market and in turn, be able to reinvest those funds in newer technologies.
The Chief Agricultural Officer urged farmers to share their views on any research being carried out by the Ministry, since such processes could only be improved through input from stakeholders.
"We want you to feedback to the Ministry, ask questions, challenge us and if you see things, bring them to our attention so that our researchers can incorporate it. We need you to help us and help the agricultural sector move to a position where we can cut down all of those imports and costs," he said.
Tropical row covers are protective materials used to shield crops from harsh elements including cold, wind and damage from insects.?? They are relatively low-cost and farmers may start with a small area and increase as more funds become available. The covers are also flexible in that they may be moved from crop to crop.
In addition, they tend to reduce the incidence of moisture which may bring pests and cause diseases, for example, the broad mite, bacterial spotting and mildew.
The sessions seek to expose farmers to the benefits of row covers and demonstrate how to construct them. The Central Agronomic Research Station of the Ministry of Agriculture will monitor all crops being grown at the farms under row covers to collect further data towards the improvement of the technology and develop best practices for increased food production in Barbados.