Farmers will have the opportunity to learn how to build Tropical Plant Shields (an adaptation of Row Covers), and by extension, how to protect and maximise their crops, thanks to a series of workshops being spearheaded by the Ministry of Agriculture in collaboration with the Ministry of the Environment.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Row Covers have been used for many years in subtropical and temperate countries to protect against frost damage. In our tropical conditions, adapted covers (tropical crop shields) have been shown to improve the yield of peppers and beans, while protecting soil from erosion and reducing the need for chemical pesticides.

Minister of the Environment, Dr.?? Denis Lowe, will deliver opening remarks at the first training session, slated to be held this Friday, May 25, beginning at 9:00 a.m. at Fairy Valley in Christ Church.

During the session, which will also be addressed by Chief Agricultural Officer, Ralph ??Farnum,?? participants will ??learn the benefits of using the shields as well as how to build them.

Having been adapted and tested at the Ministry of Agriculture’s Central Agronomic Research Station, Row Cover technology is said to have shown very favourable results with four crops so far.??

Relatively low-cost, farmers may start with a small area and increase as more funds are available. The covers are also flexible in that they may be moved from crop to crop. Using the shields also helps to reduce the incidence of troublesome moisture linked pests and diseases (e.g. broad mite, bacterial spotting, mildew), while the need for spraying pesticides is also diminished.

This technology is believed to have the potential to arrest or reverse current trends in the degradation of the environment and the declining wholesomeness of agricultural produce.????

As a consequence of the training, it is anticipated that most of the active farmers in the island will be exposed to the advantages of using Row Covers, and that overall, there will be improved farmland management (reduced soil erosion, less leaching of chemicals into groundwater).

Subsequent workshops will also be held?? in Sturges, St. Thomas, next Tuesday, May 29; Brereton, St. Philip, next Friday, June 1; Sanford, St. Philip, Tuesday, June 5;?? and Greenland, St. Andrew on Saturday, June 9.

Demonstration trials of Row Covers will be set up at these locations and will be used as a basis for the training, as well as for demonstration purposes for other farmers outside of the training events.

All workshops will be held on farms of participating farmers, and the Central Agronomic Research Station will monitor all crops being grown utilising this technology, in an effort to improve it, as well as develop best practices for increased food production in Barbados.


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