Plans are afoot for the construction of a Greenhouse farm in St. Philip, which will be geared towards commercial production, as well as cater to persons who are interested in learning about greenhouse management.

This is according to Senior Agricultural Officer in Agronomy, at the Ministry of Agriculture, Colin Wiltshire.?? He said the Ministry was looking forward to having such a farm to aid in marketing greenhouse crops and to enhance the development of persons who have an interest in cultivating skills related to greenhouse management.

The Agricultural Officer, who was speaking about the Ministry’s Greenhouse technology programme, which first started in 2003, noted: "One of the main aims of the programme is to do research concerning greenhouse crops because it’s a new technology to Barbados and still relatively new to the Caribbean.

"Farmers wanted to find out about the best type of crops grown using greenhouse technology. So, we started the programme to assist them."

Mr. Wiltshire pointed out that the agricultural officers at the Ministry had conducted close to a dozen trials.

"So far, we have grown a variety of crops, including cabbages, lettuce, sweet peppers, cauliflowers, chinese cabbage, thyme and parsley. And, we also plan on establishing a hydroponics system," he said.

In highlighting the benefits of using greenhouse technology, the Senior Agricultural Officer pointed out that the pros far outweighed the cons.

"With greenhouses, the yields are significantly higher.?? For example, if you are growing tomatoes, the volume of tomatoes would be four to 10 times higher than if grown in an open field. ??Also, the harvest period is extended in the greenhouse. For instance, one would get more sweet peppers from an open field, but within four months of planting the crop it would be exterminated, whereas in the greenhouse, the crop can continue to bear for nine months," Mr. Wiltshire explained.

The officer added that the amount of pesticides used in a greenhouse is much less than in an open field because there are not as many pests.

Citing high costs as one of the drawbacks to the greenhouse, he noted farmers might be skeptical about using greenhouse technology.

"The problem we get is that some farmers initially are turned off by the costs of setting up the building, but if they see other farmers getting in to it and realise that it is something beneficial, they will feel more comfortable to set up one," he stated.

Pointing out that initially farmers were doubtful about using drip irrigation when it was introduced, Mr. Wiltshire pointed out that today, any farm not using drip irrigation would be a rarity.

"Greenhouses, give them a chance, and farmers will see just how beneficial they would be in the long run," he stressed.

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