RAINY WEATHER WIPES OUT VEGETABLE CROPS IN CAYO DISTRICT
by Ray Auxillou
Vegetable growers in the Cayo District are suffering heavy economic losses. The recent two weeks of solid rain in the Cayo District during January and cloud cover have pretty much wiped out vegetable crops in the ground. Farmers will have to start over again by the start of February. Complaints are coming in of heavy rains, root rot and fungeses. In our hydoponics vegetables project, done in pots, we notice the tomato leaves are showing brown speckles, which we suspect is caused by the heavy nighttime torrential showers washing away the nutrient feed from the roots faster than the plants can absorb it. Recent farmer input say it is a fungus and I need to root out the plants and change the dirt in the pots.
How much rain has fallen in the last two weeks? It may be unscientific as a metrological measure, but a pig tail bucket has filled up six times to the brim and overflowing from rain in our vegetable research nursery during the last two weeks.
Roads are even worse than they were before, which is not saying much. The situation is so dire in the Hillview suburb of Santa Elena town, some taxi drivers from San Ignacio center are refusing to carry tourists up to Falconview Tourist Backpackers Adventure Hostel, in their low slung taxies. The road conditions are severely hurting the tourist economy here in Cayo West. Politician watchers say, the roads will not be graded until just before the next election, a well known campaign tactic by all incumbent parties of the past.
Agro Pro franchises around in the twin towns. They supply feed for animals and fertilizers for farms mostly. One of two stores carry a very small thin selection of a few vegetable seeds packages. Inadequate for the expanding vegetable industry. A recent amateur discovery in variety selection of appropriate seeds, is that many temperate zone vegetable seeds being imported are wrong for out tropical latitudes, because of the biological circadian rhythm, or daylight hours they are adapted to, by northern latitudes longer daylight hours. Apparently seeds for our tropical latitude have to be bred, or adapted for the 12 hours of daylight we get here? In temperate zones where most seeds come from, vegetables typically have 14 to 20 hours of daylight before harvesting. In Belize, plants only get maximum 12 hours, which can result in stunted, or poor producing crops, if the seeds are not from lower tropical latitudes. As far as we know, Mexico, Southern Texas, and South Florida are the only places one can get adapted seeds closer to our number of light hours per day rhythm needed. They call these short season vegetables. Seed importers should be aware of this when ordering seeds. If anybody will import some vegetable seeds? The lack of seeds locally to buy, or choices is driving me crazy?
Cheap plastic pots continue to be unavailable. Perhaps some enterprising entrepreneur should invest in a cheap, or home made vaccum hot air oven, or blower for molding plastic pots? This is a home cottage type industry easily done, though you would have to import plastic sheeting from Texas. Such a hot air vacuum mold could produce many different plastic products.
There is no sun shade vegetable screening covering material of different sun blocking grades in Cayo West. Belize City down on the coast apparently have only one grade type? But it is not readily available for sale in Cayo West Agro Pro franchises. There are different sun block grades in nursery catalogues abroad. Seedling trays are now available from a feed store near the French Bakery in San Ignacio center. The only place stocking them in all of Cayo District as far as we know?
Seed potato may receive a boost this year? In past years the Barton Creek farmers produce about 8000 pounds of Irish potatos in the two month GOB protected natural harvest season. Seed potatos have to be imported prior to local planting, usually from Canada. One seed potato produces about ten new potatos. This is a big local planting expense, usually from Canada. Importers bring in about 6 million pounds of potatos the other ten months of the year. Seed potatos can be produced locally, but require a six month cold storage until the next natural growing season for potatos in the Cayo District. Jane Beard a recent immigrant from the UK, long known locally for her work at Las Cueves Research Station over ten years, on bug collections, for the London Museum, imported a styrofoam block house you erect by yourself, from Germany. It ends up being solid concrete, as you fill up the designer spaces. The isulation factor is so high, it is being speculated one could build a storeroom out of these styrofoam blocks and using an ordinary refrigerator to keep electricity costs down, create a sufficiently low temperature storage facility on the cheap, to keep potatos for the long inter-season duration, for self produced seed stock right here in Belize and increase the profit margin and success rate and growth of the potato growing industry. Styrofoam product manufacturers down on the coastal road have expressed an interest.