New Frontier for Crop Cultivation in Barbados

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Stevenson Skeete, Agronomist at the Ministry of Agriculture, shows??participants how to construct a row cover, at a workshop in Brereton, St. Philip. (A.Skeete/BGIS)??

With climate change impacting heavily on local crop production, farmers will have to explore new ways of cultivating their produce.

This point was made by Agronomist at the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management, Stevenson Skeete, who believes that the development of innovative techniques for crop rearing will be the way forward for the agricultural sector.

He was addressing participants at the third in a series of farmers’ workshops on How to Build Tropical Row Covers at Brereton, St. Philip, last Friday.

"In the past, growing crops has been about providing fertiliser, sprays, water and the other inputs needed to keep plants growing. The new frontier that I see ahead for us, especially seeing how the weather is changing, is to also look at how the plant is exposed to, for example, light, wind, and water in terms of rain and then controlling that kind of micro climate the crop experiences," Mr. Skeete said.

The Agronomist explained that tropical row covers allow farmers to set up a small micro climate for the particular crop they are producing; where they control the amount of light, moisture, water and other inputs for crop cultivation.

Row covers are protective materials used to shield crops from harsh elements including cold, wind and damage from insects. Their advantages include: protecting crops from adverse heat, cold and wind; reducing the incidence of pest damage; row covers are flexible and can be moved around easily; provide increased moisture and humidity and yield and crop quality; and the cost of implementing row covers is much lower than installing a full greenhouse. They are also quite easy to construct, set up and manage.

"What we are really doing here is producing a microclimate within the crop shield. A greenhouse does that as well. It produces an area where there is no direct rainfall, where the wind is reduced, and light is also decreased. Basically, you are setting up a microclimate that suits the crop you are growing.

"There is also a biotic component to this as well. You are also setting up a type of environment for the crop which excludes many pests and diseases as well," the Agronomist explained.

Mr. Skeete suggested that the traditional way of growing crops in an open field would have increased challenges due to the changing climate in Barbados and he stressed that farmers would have to adapt.

"This new way of thinking will have to be about how to reduce wind, how to keep water off the leaves if it is the wet season, and how to reduce the heat from sunshine…because plants can be under a lot of stress," he said.

andre.skeete@barbados.gov.bb

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