Last year farmers in the northern region of Belize were impacted by a severe drought. Yesterday, during the Santander Sugar Group conference they spoke about the use of mechanized farming and its impacts. According to Santander, the farming methods allowed farmers in the Cayo district to reduce the impacts of the drought of last year. Some of these mechanical methods include drone aerial monitoring, laser technology, lateral irrigation, self-surface draining, and 24-hour weather monitoring system amongst others. These methods allow the company to efficiently handle resources and accurately cultivate the land for farming. According to Enrique Sanchez, Agriculture Manager went into detail on how some of these farming methods help farmers during a drought.
Enrique Sanchez, Agricultural Manager: “Something else that we have implemented, we have 24/7 connected weather stations which helps in having data that can aid in knowing for example exactly when the crops are stressed because of too much transpiration, too much precipitation, we can also know when is the right point when the crops will get more ripening naturally because of the temperature difference between the day and the night and all this information is extremely valuable to take the decisions when you need to make them. We have some irrigation systems that are called lateral irrigation systems, they are very similar to pivots the only difference is that they go in a lateral movement. We currently arduously irrigate about 20% of our area and this helps during the drought that we had this year. In the aerial picture you can look at four fields that were irrigated by this system versus two fields that were not, only 20% of our area gets irrigated but the area that has gotten irrigated has been giving very good deals. I would also like to mention that this system of irrigation is extremely efficient since there is almost no water loss you can apply exactly the amount of water that the fields need without any run off so that way you save water and your are efficient with the resources that you have.”
Sanchez went on to say that the soil in the area consists mostly of clay. This means that it is able to retain water therefore farmers aren’t heavily impacted by drought.
Enrique Sanchez, Agricultural Manager: “Our soils are heavy clay. Heavy clay has the particularity of having very fine particles, very fine particles have the ability to catch more water and retain more water during the periods that are very dry. So for example our soils got loaded with water during the rains and when we had the drought a lot of water was available for the crop ot have it. Also we implemented many new activities that helped us fight the drought. For example we use subsoilers which make cracks in the soil and increase the porosity of the soil, with more porosity you can have more water for tougher times or for drought periods that helped us a lot during this drought of 2019. Also we improved our fertilization and that helped us in having a stronger crop that can withstand hard conditions and we’ve started to use all the organic waste that comes from the sugar mill like for example the cake filter and the ashes we mix it up, do a compost and apply it to the field. With that we’ve managed to have organic fertilizer that makes our crops much stronger since one of the nutrient rich things that come in the compost is potassium and potassium enhances the immune system of the plant and helps it during drought periods.”
Belize is expected to experience another drought this year.