Neil Morrison, 13th-16th September 2011
Fernando Tamayo Mejia, who works for the state government’s Department of Agricultural Development, arranged these meetings for me in advance. The growers who I met were open to our technology, and had a good understanding of how it would work and what the potential problems would be. In terms of concerns, theseweren’t necessarily regulatory, and more technical, and any proposal for trials should seek to address these. From the growers I met individually, I received positive feedback on the prospects of them hosting a trial. The state government’s Department of Agricultural Development were also positive, and offered any help necessary to get RIDL into the field.
My proposed next step is to submit afield trial proposal to the growers group (COTECO), that describes what our ideal experiment would entail, and that also deals with some of the questions asked by the growers (e.g. how would RIDL cope with immigration by mated females?).
Brassica production in Guanajuato state
Broccoli is produced in trays under polytunnels (with open sides), and then planted out in the field, where it takes 80-100days until harvest. Planting is by hand.
Mexico produces 70% of the frozen broccoli consumed in the USA, and also much of the fresh broccoli. Other markets include Canada and Japan. Guanajuato can be split in two - north and south – and conditions are ideal for broccoli at different times: North, Jan to June; South, July to Nov; with production volumes equal between the two. It can be grownyear-round in each region, though. The key stakeholders for us are the packaging firms, which grow much of the broccoli themselves, and also contract smaller growers too. In terms of pest control methods, the decision lies with these big firms.
The packaging firms belong to the General Association of Fruit and Vegetable Processors, and produce 95% of the state’s broccoli. It was founded in 1987 tofind alternatives to industry problems that affect the industry. The Association has a Technical Committee, COTECO, in which each processing firm’s agricultural manager participates (15 in total, I think). COTECO focuses its efforts on finding solutions to agronomic problems of broccoli, chiefly those relating to the spread of the diamondback moth. It was at one of these meetings that I met some ofthe growers, and I then travelled to others’ premises.
The individual farms are, on average, 50 ha in size (as I understand), with the biggest discussed being 800 ha in size. The large firms often own farms (‘rancheros’) in different parts of the state, and in some other states too. One grower I met operates 6000 ha in total. Organic produce takes up a very small percentage of production (“maybe1%”).
Each large growing company also has a processing plant attached – trucks with harvested broccoli/cauliflower drive in, and refrigerated ones drive out, usually to make the journey to the US.
These big companies that comprise COTECO produce, process and transport to clients in USA (e.g. one grower we visited – Xtra Apex – supplies 100% of Birdseye’s frozen broccoli in the UK), Canada andJapan.
The pest problem
As always, feedback differed a little in terms of how big a problem DBM is for the growers. All acknowledged that it is the biggest pest problem. Other moth pests include Spodoptera litura, Pieris rapae and cabbage looper moth (Trichoplusia nii), but these are not big concerns. DBM is a problem all year, but worst in the rainy season. For the past 4-5 years, they have beenable to control DBM a lot better, with the use of new chemicals. The biggest problem now is not so much crop damage, but more the customer finding insects in the produce. Saying that, DBM is always found when scouting, and we found some when looking in one field after 5 minutes.
The growers talked about the moth moving between farms, and even between the two halves of the state (no real data...