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Posts Tagged: Guatemala

More irrigation for climate-smart farming and food security in Guatemala

Connecting 9,000 rural households in Guatemala with improved water management and climate-smart agriculture strategies is the goal of a new project led by a team at UC Davis, to ultimately increase food security and reduce poverty in Guatemala's Western Highlands.

Meagan Terry, left, a UC Davis researcher with the Horticulture Innovation Lab in Guatemala, discusses conservation agriculture with a Guatemalan consultant and a local youth group member. (Photo by Beth Mitcham)
Called MásRiego (“more irrigation”), the project aims to increase farmers' incomes and their use of climate-smart strategies, including drip irrigation, rainwater harvesting, reduced tillage, mulch use and diverse crop rotation. To enable farmers to adopt these new practices, the team will not only provide trainings but also build partnerships to increase farmers' access to needed micro-credit financing and irrigation equipment.

“The opportunity to impact so many farmers' lives on this scale is exciting,” said Beth Mitcham, director of the Horticulture Innovation Lab and a UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences. “We're taking lessons learned from our previous research — in Guatemala, Honduras and Cambodia — and building a team to help more small-scale farmers apply our findings and successfully use these innovative practices.”

The new project is part of the U.S. government's global hunger and food security initiative, Feed the Future. The project represents an additional $3.4 million investment in the UC Davis-led Horticulture Innovation Lab by the U.S. Agency for International Development's mission in Guatemala.

The project's international team also includes representatives from Kansas State University; North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University; the Centro de Paz Bárbara Ford in Guatemala; Universidad Rafael Landívar in Guatemala; and the Panamerican Agricultural School, Zamorano, in Honduras.

“The learning shared between these three U.S. universities and the universities in Honduras and Guatemala will be enriching for all of the institutions involved,” said Manuel Reyes, research professor at Kansas State University who is part of the team. “I find it satisfying that these academic institutions will be investing intellectually in marginalized groups in Guatemala's Western Highlands — and in turn, learning from them too.”

Helping youth envision a future in agriculture

Miguel Isaias Sanchez has started farming with drip irrigation and a water tower, using information from one of the first MásRiego trainings. (Photo by Beth Mitcham)
The new MásRiego project will focus on helping farmers, particularly women and youth, grow high-value crops on very small plots of land (200 square meters minimum), in the Quiché, Quetzaltenango and Totonicapán departments of Guatemala's Western Highlands.

By partnering with local youth groups and agricultural schools, the team will better prepare students for jobs in commercial agriculture and agricultural extension with knowledge of climate-resilient conservation and water management practices.

“Our local team is training youth as entrepreneurs, to see agriculture as an economic opportunity instead of just back-breaking work,” said Meagan Terry, UC Davis junior specialist who is managing the project in Guatemala for the Horticulture Innovation Lab. “They can envision a future in agriculture, with innovative ways to create value-added products or grow high-value crops for niche markets.”

As rainfall patterns vary with climate change, farmers in this region are expected to face increased competition for water. Practices such as rainwater harvesting, drip irrigation and conservation agriculture will become more necessary for small-scale farmers.

Climate-smart lessons from conservation agriculture, drip irrigation

In previous research, the Horticulture Innovation Lab has found that combining drip irrigation with conservation agriculture practices can successfully grow vegetables on small plots of land, without significant yield reductions. These practices improve soil structure, moisture retention and soil health.

Additionally, women farmers who participated in the Horticulture Innovation Lab studies in Cambodia, Honduras and Guatemala favored using these practices for another important reason: reduced labor in relation to controlling weeds, vegetable bed preparation and manual watering.

“I dream for many women, youth and their families, that their lives will be better off because of 'MasRiego' and the science behind this work,” Reyes said. “As for the research, we are learning how to improve this suite of practices so they can be tailor fitted globally. I am convinced that if this picks up, steep sloping lands can be farmed with the soil quality not being degraded — but even being enriched.”

These lessons, as well as findings from the program's “Advancing Horticulture” report about horticultural sector growth in Central America, lay the foundation for this new project.

A previous version of this article was published by UC Davis News Service and on the Horticulture Innovation Lab blog


Curious about partnering with the Horticulture Innovation Lab? The Horticulture Innovation Lab builds partnerships between agricultural researchers in the United States and researchers in developing countries, to conduct fruit and vegetable research that improves livelihoods in developing countries. The program currently has three research grant opportunities for U.S. researchers: one focused on tomatoes, another on apricots, and a third on integrated crop-livestock systems. 

Posted on Tuesday, August 30, 2016 at 8:02 AM

IPM information extends to apple and peach growers in Guatemala

Peach trees in the highlands of Guatemala with a view of the Santa Maria Volcano in the distance.
Did you know that apples and peaches are two important fruit crops planted in the highlands of Guatemala? More than 7,600 acres of apples and 6,100 acres of peaches are grown. However, with warm winters that don't allow for the winter chilling time that these crops require for optimal growth, and with freezing spring temperatures along with summer rains, growing apples and peaches in this area is often a challenge for growers.  

As part of the Farmer-to-Farmer Program sponsored by the Partners of the Americas and funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), retired UC IPM entomologist Walter Bentley and Washington State University entomologist Jay Brunner traveled to Guatemala in April to help growers improve the peach and apple industry. Their primary goal was to identify pest problems and possible solutions to help peach and apple growers improve fruit production, taking into account the region's unique climate.

Jay Brunner (far left), Walter Bentley and Armando Hernandez (center), with family members from one of the farms visited.
Bentley and Brunner worked with the Asociación Nacional de Productores de Frutales Deciduos (ANAPDE) and its director, Armando Hernandez, to reach out to various growers in the area. Bentley and Brunner set out to identify insect and mite problems. Fortunately, they found that there were only a few entomological problems.

“The most important issues were horticultural,” said Bentley. “The region's biggest need is for a horticulturist or plant pathologist.”

Some of the peach varieties require 300 to 500 chilling hours.

Top half of a peach tree in bloom while the bottom half produces fruit, caused by the lack of required winter chilling hours.
However, with the warm winters, Bentley observed that peach trees growing in the regions of Quetzaltenango and Chichicastenango of Guatemala do not receive the required winter chilling hours, resulting in an extended bloom period.

“Peach trees at elevations of 7,500 to 9,000 feet above sea level bloom for 2 months whereas bloom in California lasts just 10 days," he said. "You would get situations where the top half of the tree was in bloom while the bottom half was already producing fruit.”

This creates an environment favoring disease development and causing further problems for growers if the disease was severe enough to warrant a pesticide treatment. If a tree was partially in bloom while simultaneously producing fruit, it would have to be hand-sprayed multiple times so that the portion of the tree that warranted treatment was sprayed.

Walter Bentley shows examples of phytophthora root rot from the UC Integrated Pest Management for Stone Fruits manual.
Summer rains create further problems in the area, causing favorable conditions for pathogens to develop, especially at harvest. Brown rot, Phytophthora and rust are the three main diseases attacking apples and peaches in these regions.

Although most of the important issues that Bentley and Brunner found were horticultural or disease-related, there were some insect problems. Many growers had stink bugs and other plant bugs attacking their trees. Spider mites and predatory mites were also observed. Growers sprayed pyrethroids after bloom to help prevent plant bug damage. However, applying pyrethroids reduced predatory mites, leading to an outbreak of spider mites.

After spending seven days touring four to six farms per day and looking at various practices, Bentley and Brunner spent the next week leading workshops for farmers and discussing integrated pest management (IPM) approaches to managing problems. Using the UC IPM website, specifically the Pest Management Guidelines for apples and peaches, Bentley and Brunner were able to teach sampling methods, stress the importance of correct pest identification, and encourage growers to spray with the least toxic and disruptive products. Bentley and Brunner were surprised by the large variety of pesticides available to growers, but were encouraged that farmers were willing to spray only when necessary while being open to other methods of control.

ANAPDE Director, Armando Hernandez, searches for predatory mites on peaches.
Both entomologists plan to keep the lines of communication open and feel the observations made during this trip could lead to future visits where sustainable pest management programs can be put into action. For example, predatory mites were observed in several of the orchards. This could lead to developing a biological control program to control spider mites.

Bentley and Brunner were impressed by the staff that took them around to each farm and by the growers who were receptive to new ways of managing pest problems. The farmers were very appreciative of the advice they received and were very generous. “Everywhere you went people wanted to share what they had,” said Bentley. “They are amazing people.”

Humbled by the experience, Bentley reflected, “I'm glad I went. I've been given a lot in my life and wanted to give back a little.”

Posted on Friday, July 8, 2016 at 10:00 AM
Tags: Apples (10), Guatemala (2), Peaches (21), Walter Bentley (1)
 
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