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Ag Briefs

in Issue 37 by


UB CF announces that the next Neal Kinsey Soil Fertility 3 day course will be held the week of August 27th (note this has been changed from the dates in the previous Ag Report). This will be a repeat of the very well-received Intro 2 Course given in February. To register, contact David Thiessen at 670-4817 or Limited registration.


Avocados reached the highest prices in the US over 19 years early this summer, at $28 USD/10 kilos, due to lowered yields caused by bad weather and other problems in the main producing countries of Mexico (strikes), Peru (floods), Chile (droughts) and the US (California droughts).

Avocado as colorant: Researchers at Penn State, USA, inadvertently discovered that avocado pits, when pulverized, produce very stable and natural food colors, in the ranges from yellow, orange and red. This coloring is said to be more vibrant and stable than other coloring options and is expected to be also very cost effective as it could utilize the large quantities of pits currently tossed out. For more information go to .

Belize citrus estimates for the 2016-2017 crop, 3.2 m boxes of oranges, even though a decline from the previous year’s crop of 3.25 m boxes, was viewed optimistically as 2016 saw an estimated loss of 569k boxes due to Hurricane Earl. Newly planted trees, roughly 2,000 acres, coming into production for the upcoming 2017-2018 season, will increase yields. Local citrus associations, the Citrus Growers Association (CGA) and Belize Citrus Mutual (BCM) made a joint request to Ministry of Agriculture to discuss common industry challenges including HLB management, labor issues and capital availability. Their successful meeting, with representatives of both associations and ministry officials including the Minister of Agriculture Hon. Godwin Hulse was held on 10thJuly, 2017.  All parties agreed on a strategic goal to plant 5 million citrus trees in the next 5 years and agreed for the ministry, the associations and the factory to work together to maximize marketing of juice blends locally, regionally and globally.

Regarding the HLB challenge, all parties agreed to the “four pronged approach… (i) the control of the Asian Citrus Psyllid vector that spreads HLB, (ii) the planting of only certified citrus trees, (iii) the removal of sick uneconomic trees and (iv) the implementation of a robust nutrition programme.”

Brazil reported that their exports of orange juice for the year July 2016 to July 2017, declined 17% from the previous year, to 890,000 tons, a 25 year low. They are anticipating higher yields for the next season especially in the states of Sao Paolo and Minas Gervais. Brazil leads the world in orange juice exports and their top market is the EU.

Florida citrus production also continues in a decline, with their 2016-2017 crop 16% down from the previous year. The USDA forecasts 68.7 million 90 pound boxes. Previous year’s total was 81.6 million boxes. Florida grapefruit production is forecast to be 7.8 million boxes (1.5 m white and 6.3 m red), a 28% decline from the previous year.

HLB in China: According to Mr. Dehua Chen of Yantoa Bojie Agriculture Technology Development, 19 provinces have encountered HLB and “compared to other countries, citrus greening disease is more common in China because more chemical fertilizers are used for citrus plants which are planted close together.” They suggest better management combining disease prevention with vector control and “replacing herbicides like glyphosate with traditional or organic fertilizers and manual weeding.” Since 2003 they have been experimenting with using microbiological fertilizer that “fights against the diseases”. The main product used for that is E-2001, which is imported from the USA.

New GMO Banana: After 12 years research, the Golden Banana has been developed in Australia and is ready for planting in Uganda. The new variety combines genes from a small Papau New Guinea banana with the Cavendish, to produce a banana with a darker orange color and a higher vitamin A content. Bananas are a major staple in Uganda and this should be in major production there by 2021. The Gates foundation has provided funding.

Bananas growing in Canada: Hard to believe, but 2 outside-the –box thinking Canadians are producing bananas, guava and papaya in hoophouses near Auburn, Ontario. They say their fruits are “usually cheaper than the grocery store”, so have found some resistance to their local tropical produce with local stores. They are in discussions to expand or relocate operations in Ontario, or to Quebec and Alberta. Other tropical fruits in experimental phases include passion fruit, pineapple, avocado, mangos and coconuts. For more information contact Canada Banana Farms at

Chayote: Costa Rica, Mexico and the Dominican Republic export cho-cho (Sechiumedule) to the US in rising amounts. The perennial vine is high in anti-oxidants, iron, manganese, phosphorus, zinc, potassium, copper and in vitamins B1, B2, B6 and C. Curiously, importers note that fumigation rates have increased greatly “because of the pests or bugs commonly found in chayotes” and then these fumigations diminish the shelf life of the chayote.

Red pineapple: A Brazilian company, Botanica Pop Ltda, has announced 2 new varieties of red pineapples, called Cesar and David. Since then, they have been flooded with local and international requests from both potential purchasers as well as producers. The dark red color derives from the presence of anthocyanin, “which is a strong natural medicinal compound with action against different cancer forms now proven by over 600 indexed scientific publications”. Also these varieties, like other pineapples, contain the healthful enzyme bromelain. The fruit is being promoted as a premium fruit (unlike the normal pineapple which is considered a commodity fruit) and this will result in a premium price as well. The Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture and local universities are assisting in the development of these cultivars.





 Vinegar For Drought Resistance: After studying a new biological pathway that is activated in plants during droughts, scientists at Japan’s RIKEN Center for Sustainable Resource Science (CSRS) found that they could give plants a higher tolerance for drought simply by growing them in vinegar. The HDA6 enzyme essentially functions like a switch activating one of two metabolic pathways: sugar for energy under normal circumstances and acetate during droughts. They treated some Arabidopsis plants with acetic acid and others with water or other organic acids and grew them in drought conditions to compare the results. (The plant is a close relative of cabbage, kale, and cauliflower and is often used in experiments because it readily shows changes). After two weeks, 70 percent of the plants that were treated with the acetic acid survived; nearly all of the other plants had died. The other acids that were used unsuccessfully included hydrochloric acid, butyric acid, formic acid, citric acid and lactic acid.

The same experiment showed increased drought tolerance in maize, wheat and rice when they were grown using acetic acid. They found that the optimum concentration was 40 parts of water to one part of vinegar. This simple technique eliminates the need for transgenic technologies, which means it is not only safer but also much easier to apply around the world.

Indoor Warehouse Farms in US: In 2015 there were 15 reported warehouse farms, plant factories and rooftop greenhouses in the US, but this has jumped to 56 in midyear 2017.


Truly local produce: An IGA supermarket in the St. Laurent, Quebec, Canada (Montreal area), announced that they are selling 30 varieties of organic produce, which are grown on 25,000 sq. feet of the store’s own roof and will be selling honey from the 8 beehives there.The gardens use water from the store’s own dehumidification system, and will be certified organic by Ecocert Canada. The owners say that growing on their roof is more expensive than other methods, yet they will sell these items at the same prices as other organic produce.


A new report, the International Greenhouse Vegetable Production Statistics, 2017 edition indicates that about half of the world’s vegetable greenhouses are in Asia. Their estimate for the world is 489,214 ha. and by continent is : Europe – 173,561 ha; South America – 12,502 ha; North America – 7,288 ha; Asia – 224,974 ha; Africa – 36, 993 ha; Oceana – 2,036 ha; and Antartica – 0.02 ha (research station). For more information –


Both Arkansas and Missouri’s plant boards have put bans on the spraying of dicamba, with exceptions for use on pastureland. Dicamba is known for its drifting quality, which makes it very difficult, if not impossible, to control. Farmers who planted GMO dicamba-ready soy or cotton have no damages but neighbors who planted non-resistant varieties have sustained damages on thousands of acres since traditional soy is incredibly sensitive to dicamba. The new dicamba-resistant variety was created to control pigweed (amaranth)which had become resistant to glyphosate (Roundup) as a control.

Food equipment giant Tomra Sorting Solutions has made the world’s largest steam potato peeler for an un-named potato processor. The 8 meter tall machine can peel more than 143,300 pounds of spuds per hour, which is about 3,000 individual potatoes per 7 seconds. Tomra boasts that it is also 28% more steam-efficient than other peelers of its type.


Eurofins, one of the world’s most respected lab groups, notes that testing for pesticide residues is increasing as demands for residue-free products rise. They also do pre-harvest tests to advise on the best time for harvesting or the ripeness of a product. To assist in estimating shelf life, they even have a test which deliberately contaminates a product to see how quickly bacteria develop. They compare their results with maximum residue level (MRL) and acute reference dose (ARfD) values and report that many of their supermarket clients actually enforce stricter requirements than required by law. They find an average of 5% of produce tested exceeds MRLs, with bell peppers, grapes, strawberries and other soft fruit to be the highest risk. Fresh produce has been residue inspected since 1998, and Eurofins says that “compared to other sectors, the fresh produce sector is a clean business.” Eurofins has labs in 39 countries.

Banana leaves for food wraps: A Bolivian woman has started a company processing banana leaves for food wraps, with hopes to reduce use of foil and plastic wraps for food. Both natural and biodegradable, the wraps are catching on in restaurants and butcher shops. They can be used in the cooking process, tolerating grilling, baking, frying and being placed in a fire. The leaves are purchased from the banana farms, then steamed, dried and packed into bags of 10 which sell for the equivalent of $2.90 Bz$. The Banana Pack has a 6 month shelf life. Many Belizeans are well acquainted with using banana leaves, and they can sometimes be found loosely packed in our open markets.










CARDI and the University Of Belize to Collaborate on Knowledge Sharing, Training And Research Activities in the Agricultural Sector:

The Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) and the University of Belize (UB) have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to collaborate in the areas of knowledge sharing, training and capacity building, resource mobilization and research activities geared towards the development of Belize’s agricultural sector. The MOU was signed by CARDI’s Executive Director, Barton Clarke and the President of the University of Belize, Professor Clement Sankat at the University of Belize, main campus in Belmopan. Present at the signing were CARDI Representative, Omaira Avila Rostant and UB, Central Farm Campus Administrator, Gordon Holder.



Beth came to Belize from Massachusetts in 1973 as a Peace Corps volunteer, serving with the vet department at Central Farm. She and her late husband John raised commercial beef cattle, purebred Nelore cattle, quarter horses and their children on ranches in Cayo. Beth appreciates the opportunities to meet folks involved in agriculture presented by the Belize Ag Report.

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