Joint Investment by PR, US Agriculture Departments Results in Crop Pest Control Project
SAN JUAN – With a $40,000 investment – $20,000 from the Innovation and Agricultural Development Fund (IFAD by its Spanish acronym) and the remaining $20,000 from the U.S. Agriculture Department’s Specialty Crops grant program – the Casa Sombra greenhouse project was begun Saturday in Juana Díaz’s Agricultural Experiment Station.
“Casa Sombra is the first pilot project of its kind to be established at the research level in Puerto Rico. In order to validate technology for local farmers, the Department of Agriculture established a testing phase in collaboration with the Experimental Station of the University of Puerto Rico in Juana Díaz,” Agriculture Secretary Myrna Comas Pagán explained.
“This project seeks to provide another farming alternative to minimize the loss in production caused by difficult to control pests so that agronomic practices that provide food security for the island are once again established,” said agronomist Manuel Crespo Ruiz, Assistant Secretary of Innovation and Agricultural Commerce.
The investment aims to study the interaction between diamondback moth Plutella xylostella in cabbage and pepper weevil Anthonomus eugenii, thrips, and whiteflies in watermelon. Initially, tests will be performed on these crops in two stages of production, one protected by the Casa Sombra structure and the other a fresh air stage for a better understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of each.
Given its low investment cost when compared with the technology involved in a controlled environment; the relatively inexpensive installation and pest control advantages, it is a project within the partially controlled environment category.
Cabbage production has fluctuated in recent years from 586,900 pounds to 910,800 pounds annually. Cabbage imports totaled 7.1 million pounds, for an approximate total consumption of 8.1 million pounds. The fresh cabbage market is pegged at 92% with an approximate value of $1.4 million at the farm level.
“At the Innovation Fund for Agricultural Development, our vision is to provide technology to farmers, which is possible when matching funds of different programs with the U.S. Department of Agriculture,” IFAD Executive Director Saritza Aulet Padilla added in a statement.