Back in August last year, Peter Hernández, Operations Manager of the Gargiulo commercial farming operation in Puerto Rico, agreed to try Vetiver as a windbreaker for their tomato fields. Gargiulo has been using sugar cane hedges to cut back the dust that blows into their tomato production fields. With 900 acres of land, 600 of which are in actual production, dust damage can be a very costly environmental factor that must be effectively controlled. Although the sugar cane has proven effective as a wind barrier, this cane must be harvested and replanted annually at substantial cost. In the old days, the biomass left over from sugar cane harvesting was burned and plowed back into the fields. Air quality legislation no longer allows this disposal method, and all this biomass must be spread on otherwise useful land and allowed to dry and decompose over many years. Gargiulo and Agriflora Tropicals agreed that a better solution was needed.
Two 500-plant trials were planted on June 24 and August 6, 2009. Both locations were planted as double Vetiver rows that were later continued as double sugar cane rows, that being the standard Gargiulo practice. The Picasa album Vetiver as Windbreaker, Gargiulo Puerto Rico documents the successful implementation of the Vetiver barriers. The latest pictures, taken on January 13, 2010, show that the Vetiver has achieved about two-thirds of the sugar cane height with a denser, more wind-resistant, body mass. Contrary to sugar cane, Vetiver hedges will be permanent and will require minimal care and maintenance for many years. Vetiver biomass, should Gargiulo choose to cut any of it, can be used as mulching or plowed back into fields providing additional value.
In Puerto Rico, Gargiulo produces 1.5 million 25-lb boxes of top quality tomatoes per harvest. Vetiver may also help Gargiulo address various soil conservation problems where sugar cane was never a solution, and may increase field productivity by increasing soil moisture and acting as a trap crop to flying insects. Agriflora Tropicals will continue to work with Gargiulo to evaluate and implement these Vetiver bioengineering solutions during this year.
|Vetiver as Windbreaker, Gargiulo Puerto Rico|