Agriculture feeds and clothes the world. Its production is directly dependent on climate change and weather. Possible changes in temperature, precipitation and Carbon Dioxide concentration are expected to significantly impact crop growth.
With climate change impacting Guyana, the National Agricultural Research and Extension Institute (NARIE) has arrived with solutions to protect agricultural crops from its harsh impacts.
Shade houses have now been introduced in crop production. These are used to protect cultivated plants from excessive heat, light and dryness. NAREI has also implemented a system where the shade houses are used with raised beds—to prevent plants from being flooded.
NAREI’s Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Oudho Homenauth, recalled Guyana experiencing the impacts of climate changes—with flooding and dried conditions—on food production.
In the situation, he said that the agency explored adaptive measure to mitigate some of the effects.
Crops grown under shaded conditions are also protected from harsh weather conditions and have minimal exposure to pests and diseases.
“One of the things we started on was shaded condition using the shade cloth or mesh. The first one was built in our compound (Mon Repos) in 2009. There was a programme, South-South Cooperation where we were the beneficiaries of some Cuban expertise and it was with the Cuban expertise we set up the shade house,” Dr. Homenauth said.
Kaieteur News was told that the initial response was beyond what was expected—the production was higher than what the open field produces, especially for leafy vegetables like cabbages and pak choi.
“Once we started the shade house, we recognised the numerous benefits this shade house was giving in terms of temperature,” Dr. Homenauth said. Over the years, the agency has been encouraging farmers to incorporate new technology in their operations. Once the first shade house was established, NAREI did a demonstration with farmers throughout the country to educate them on the benefits and functions.
With this structure, crops can be grown all year-round.
“The shade houses are also being used for nursery production. Very few farmers now produce their own seedlings. Everything is being produced under shaded conditions so you can get year round production with vegetable seedlings as well,” NAREI’s CEO indicated.
Constructing a shade house requires mesh, plastic, wood and PVC pipes (for the automated sprinkler system). Generally, the beds are either raised or in the ground. The cost of investment depends on the size of the shade house.
Once the farmers purchased the materials, NAREI provides the technical support for free and with continuous production, the capital cost can be subsumed within a year once the crops are marketable. “This has been a success story for the farmers in Guyana so far. Farmers in the Rupununi have embarked on the shaded condition.”
And, like any success story, NAREI has had its fair share of challenges adapting to the new technology during its initial stage.
“The issue we were getting was to transfer this technology. We weren’t getting the materials (shade mesh and shade cloth) in Guyana. Then we recognized that the shade cloth alone will not be adequate because if it rains heavily, there will be some seepage so we started with plastic as well and then a combination of plastic and the shade mesh,” Dr. Homenauth disclosed.
He added that with the experience the institute would have garnered from the Cuban expertise, it was able to make adjustments in terms of the height and types of shade houses.
The various types of shade houses include the low tunnel structure, two-roof, single-ridge (police cap) structure, high tunnel structure, double-ridge structure and green house structure. Now, these structures are available throughout the country. Presently, most farmers who are cultivating bell pepper, which was introduced by NAREI, are doing so in shaded condition to get better yields. In 2016 alone, local farmers produced $20M worth of this commodity and no importation permits were issued.
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