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Mexico: Protected agriculture could be the best alternative

Protected agriculture systems could be the best way to produce food, and protect the more than 50 thousand hectares of vegetables that are sown in Sonora against climate change that causes freezing temperatures, which can seriously affect the crops.

Frosts are one of the most damaging elements for vegetables; last weekend, the low temperatures caused total losses in more than 14 thousand crops in the Valley of Mayo.

The cold snap that reached Mexico, mainly in the north, at the end of December 2018, has caused partial and total damage to some 60,000 hectares of crops in Sinaloa, Tamaulipas, and Sonora. The damage was mainly concentrated in vegetable, corn, and bean crops, even though this method helped protect 80% of the plants grown under this system.

Antonio Gandara, president of the Association of Producers of Vegetables of Yaqui and Mayo (Aphym), said that the association planned to have some 15 thousand hectares of vegetables, 75 percent of which had already been established.

The shacks and greenhouses, which cover some 1,800 hectares and that are used to produce the most valuable products (such as tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers), and the ones that demand the most labor, did not suffer any damage," said Gandara.

He also said that, even though protected agriculture only represented 12 percent of the total horticultural area in the Yaqui Valley and 0.8 percent of the total area of the entire region, the production grown through this technique accounted for 40 percent of the commercial value achieved by the vegetables; and now that the market is favorable, it will account for 50 percent of the sales value and 25 percent of what the Yaqui Valley generates, including all of its crops.

There was some damage to the early potatoes even though 4 thousand hectares are planted in the Yaqui Valley and another 5,600 in Navojoa and Huatabampo. The early potatoes will have small sizes due to a reset effect that happens because of the frost, which causes the generation of more tubers and leads to a decrease in sizes. However, the middle and late stage potatoes won't have any problem," he said.

In turn, Jorge Guzman Nieves, the Secretary of Agriculture in Sonora, said that the low temperatures had caused partial and total damage to crops in southern Sonora, and that it was still to soon to quantify the damage as the low temperatures would continue throughout the week.

Low temperatures have caused damage to thousands of hectares that were frozen and are now unusable," he stated.

There were good marketing expectations for this horticultural cycle due to harvest prices and the demand for the product in the United States. Now producers are at the mercy of the climate and already know they will have losses due to the cold and its consequences, which will even have social repercussions, as 50 percent of the day laborers will be unemployed in the next two weeks.


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