|Row covers...taking the greenhouse to the field|
|Tuesday, 05 July 2011 10:07|
A handout on row covers was shared with participants at a recent field day.
We are all becoming aware of the benefits of protected agriculture. farmers are already investing in greenhouses to improve the quality and timing of production. However the cost of a 30x90 greenhouse may be a big chunk to chew for a small scale grower.
So what if rather than take the plants to the greenhouse, we decided to take the greenhouse to the plants in the field. We could move the "greenhouse" around depending on the crop and we could also change the structure depending on what we are protecting against. For example if we just want to keep out birds we could use bird netting or insect screen. If we wanted to keep out rain we could place a strip of plastic on top. Flexibility would be at our fingertips.
Row covers can give us that flexibility. Whereas a 30x90 greenhouse would cost about 6 BDS dollars per square foot, row covers for the same area could cost less than 2$ depeding on the type and cost of the materials. What is more attractive in the economics/practicality of row covers, is the fact that the grower can begin with the amount she can afford and gradually build up the coverage that is needed. This introduces an element of scale neutrality. In other words, you dont need a hefty budget to set up a protected environment.
Farming in Barbados is becoming more risky as we encounter intense and erratic climatic conditions. Offseason rains and intense winds outside of storm season are well known occurrences. Some farmers have already been observed to try row covers made from polythene when growing tomatoes in the rainy season. Wherever successful, a good price is obtained for the produce. Climate change theory predicts an intensification of climatic trends.
Row covers are not new technology. They have been used in cooler countries to enhance the microclimate in cold air temperature conditions, buffering against frosts. In such conditions the aim is to increase temperature. In the tropical environment we would be looking to use them for a different purpose . Crop protection from excessive rain, pests and from strong dessicating winds are the some of likely aims.