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Rains not enough

drygrassThe rains have returned but that alone is unlikely to be enough to save some crops planted by Barbadian farmers. That’s the prognosis of a bulletin just issued jointly by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management, Barbados Meteorological Services and Caribbean Agrometeorological Initiative.

The good news from drought monitors at the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology, however, was that dry weather conditions would continue to ease ahead of the June start of the 2013 Atlantic Hurricane Season.

In the April 2013 Barbados Weather Outlook for Agriculture bulletin, the ministry said soil conditions in Barbados’ field were “extremely droughty in coastal parishes” and that “tall rain-fed grasses are drying up and this suggests that the topsoil is completely dried out”.

“Despite the long dry spells that are occurring, when the rain falls there is ample opportunity to harvest and store rainwater, especially for small farms. In March, enough rain fell in one morning in the north of the island to catch over 1,000 gallons from a 40″x50″ roof,” it stated.

The prevalence of constant gusty winds superimposed on hot, droughty fields is extremely stressful for crops. At this stage, watering alone may not be enough to guarantee crop performance.

“In fact, because of the cracking nature of some of the local soils, after long dry spells, water may even escape below the root zone before plant roots can get it.”

In light of the challenges, agriculture officials advised farmers to “continue to pay attention to the use of protective coverings (or windbreaks, if nothing more), crop/variety choices, mulching, organic matter, and other factors that enhance crop performance”.

“Plentiful sunshine and windy conditions are creating a good opportunity for generating solar and wind energy. Existing field conditions also favour land cultivation operations,” they said.

Local meteorological officials are predicting that by the end of today rainfall for the month would have been below the long-term average of 209.6 millimetres. There was 119.3 millimeters of rain in Barbados last month.

While local agricultural officials suggested the recent rains might not be enough to help farmers immediately, Barbados-based CIMH noted that “concerns over drought conditions have been lessened in some islands, particularly those in the extreme north of the eastern chain”.

“Concern remains in the central portion of the chain, particularly around Grenada, Barbados and Dominica; and in the vicinity of Cuba in the west,” it said in its most recent drought monitoring report.

“There is much optimism, however, that conditions will improve as they have been since late March in the eastern Caribbean and particularly so by the end of April,” it added. (SC)

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