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Biochar Implementation in Agricultural Systems of Belize

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By Gerardo Ofelio Aldana  In addition to pressures to adapt to climate change, agricultural production demands include innovative and effective solutions to balance both food production and environmental sustainability (Lehmann and Joseph, 2015). Volatility in agricultural commodities, in parallel with population growth, have initiated an alarming concern as to whether the rates of agricultural production will be able to meet its future food demands. Recent years have shown an improvement in agricultural productivity, but future demands are uncertain, especially in light of environmental factors such as climate change (Sands et al., 2014). The climate problem is now extremely large and is drastically affecting our food production systems. What the future needs is solutions that will counteract a myriad of problems all…

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Belmopan Weekend Farmers’ Market at NATS Grounds

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By Sally Thackery  The new pavilions at the Belmopan showgrounds are now open on Saturdays and Sundays for local farmers to sell their products to the public. Opening day, Saturday July 29, was lively and well-attended, by both the public and the market sellers. Big thanks to CEO Jose Alpuche and Show Grounds Coordinator Gary Ramirez for such a bright vision for this property at the entrance to Belmopan. The entire showgrounds have been cleaned up, mowed, landscaped with beautiful plants and vendor stalls have been colorfully painted. These detailed improvements also include a new entrance gate, bathrooms in all sections and designated parking areas.In addition to fresh vegetables, the market offers dry goods, eco-friendly cleaning products, fruit trees, flowering…

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Beyond the Backyard: Suck Your Way to Health

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By Jenny Wildman I came across an article about a strange fruit that can boost your brain function – something all seniors think of when they cannot remember names or misplace their glasses. The picture was that of the fruit known here as kenep, kinnip or guayo. The deciduous, polygamous kenep tree is part of the soapberry family along with logan, rambutan and lychee, all cousins to the northern chestnut. The scientific name is Melicoccus bijugatus commonly referred to as Spanish lime, quenepa, genip, chennet, talpajocote and mamoncillo from the verb mamar to suck. Kenep trees are native to South America and the Island of Margarita and also found in drier woodlands and gardens of the Caribbean and Central America.…

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Industrial Uses Of Hemp

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A Short History of Cannabis Hemp Since ancient times, until this century, hemp was used throughout the world to provide food, fiber, paper, medicine, shelter and fuel. In the early 1900’s Henry Ford used fuel made from hemp to run the first cars, and believing that hemp would play an even larger role in the automobile industry, he built a car body made from hemp fiber that was stronger than steel, yet only a fraction of the weight (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=srgE6Tzi3Lg).  Ford’s engineers found ways to extract methanol, charcoal, tar, pitch, ethyl acetate and creosote – all from hemp and all of which are fundamental ingredients used throughout industry. But since the prohibition of hemp in the 1930’s, these ingredients have…

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Beyond The Backyard – Ghosts Of The Graveyard

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They stand erect and tall as guardian soldiers, swords at the ready, ever on duty in our cemeteries. The dagger like plants of Draceanaafromontana and then Yucca were planted at the headstone or in place of one at unmarked graves to ward off evil and keep restless spirits from wandering. They are profoundly significant as a symbol of eternity and mourning in the cultural beliefs of tropical Africa. The tradition continued throughout the Americas and the Caribbean settlements, the Yucca becoming our sentinel. The name Yucca applies to more than 50 species that have mostly adapted to all types of terrain and share characteristics of appearance and chemistry. They are evergreens, drought tolerant, spread rapidly, fire adaptive, prefer full sun…

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Surinam Cherry

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Surinam cherry bushes grow all over Belize; they have pumpkin-shaped fruits that are botanically berries, but resemble cherries. If you are not familiar with Surinam cherries, imagine classic bing cherries with eight ribs growing on beautiful glossy evergreen leaved bushes. The cherries/berries look like cherries, but do not taste like cherries. The taste of the Surinam cherry fruit when ripe is said to resemble fig, mango, green pepper, with undertones of balsam and apricot, and even a touch of pine-like resin and tobacco aftertaste. Before the fruits are ripe they are tart, acidic and bitter tasting. It is best to pick only the fruits which are dark red and readily fall into your hand. There is a rare variety of…

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The Majestic Mango

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Stately, massive mango trees are the glory of a tropical farm. No other fruit is anticipated with such eagerness; no other fruit tree is so abundant to the point of overwhelming when they bear well. The varieties are as different as apple varieties and each one may have its own loyal devotee. Grafted mango trees begin to bear from 2 to 3 years from planting and continue for many, many years. As I write, the view through one of the windows of our house is fully dominated by the foliage of a mango tree about 20 yards away; it may be 40 years old and is bearing again this year. It used to bear only a type of mango known…

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Beyond the Backyard Tomatillos…The Taste of Mexico

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Beyond the Backyard Tomatillos…The Taste of Mexico By Jenny Wildman   I was horrified when I first heard that some of my favorite vegetables, potatoes, aubergines (eggplant), tomatoes, and all peppers are part of the extensive nightshade family, Solanaceae, most of which can be toxic to humans. As children we were taught to avoid the pernicious deadly nightshade (Bella Donna) and thinking of anything as mildly related was somewhat unnerving. This is the plant dwale that contains poisonous alkaloids responsible for witches flying, murder and mayhem, delirium and death. Yet it was historically an important ingredient in medicine and still today is used in some pharmaceuticals.   One branch of the nightshade family is Physalis which translated means bladder, as…

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Ecological Farming

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Ecological Farming By Taylor Walker   There is a lot of talk these days regarding global climate change, soil loss, and desertification. We as farmers, gardeners, and stewards of the earth can play a major role in slowing and even reversing these catastrophic trends. Thankfully there are many solutions at hand if we use thoughtful techniques and look to the natural environment for ideas and answers.   In nature plants do not grow only in one plane but grow in all dimensions. Most natural terrestrial ecosystems consist of many different species of plants and plant types.  Groundcovers, vines, herbs, shrubs, understory trees, canopy trees, and emergent canopy trees are all present in a tropical forest. As anyone who has farmed…

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