Thursday, June 3, 2010

INIA Las Brujas

INIA Las Brujas is a fruit research station set up to promote scientific and technological innovation within agriculture. There are several stations across Uruguay specializing in different areas such as animal health and breeding. We met with Ing Agr (MSc) Soria Barabar. The station operates very similarly to the UMass Cranberry Experimental Station in Wareham, Massachusetts. They provide plant research, tissue and soil sampling, certify commercial chemicals for use, advise growers, study weather and climate changes. Soria was a fascinating man who has also spent time in the US studying at North Carolina State University. He expressed a few challenges:
  • being competitive - there is no longer a tax to import items to Uruguay so the Uruguayan farmer must do it cheaper to be competitive
  • the value of the Peso (it is currently $1USD to 18/19 Pesos); ideally he feels (and so did FUCREA) it should be $1USD to 25 Pesos
  • the producers access to technology is limited based on their ability to financially invest. From 1997-2005, the apple farmers were given government monies to improve production with new varieties, irrigation, etc. Since that program ended, they have not had another program.
  • need for additional infrastructure with cold storage, packaging houses and trading
  • to be economically sustainable the producer now needs to be larger. It is hard if not impossible for the small farm to survive financially.

He is excited about new research around disease resistant plantings and would like to continue partnering with other research organizations around varietals. He feels there are many opportunities for shared learnings. He is interested in the possibility of growing cranberries in Uruguay. He asked many questions about how they grow and comparing them to rice which is grown in two regions. However, they are always concerned with any new plant introduction. Several years ago they started blackberries and they took over as they are very invasive. They struggle with similar challenged to us in the NE of the US with weed control, pest issues for fruit trees such as apples, and a concern with fungus because of humidity.

They are practicing Integrated Pest Management to reduce their use of pesticides and protect their natural resource. Some of the IPM practices include phermone traps, new disease resistant varieties, planting methods.

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