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Conservation agriculture course in Toluca

About 30 people attended an intensive course in conservation agriculture (CA) during 08-10 April 2008 at the CIMMYT experiment station in Toluca. The course, which was the first in recent years by CIMMYT in Mexico focusing on researchers and extensionists rather than farmers, was coordinated by cropping systems management specialist, Bram Govaerts, and the station superintendent, Fernando Delgado.

Public sector participants included representatives from the state of Mexico agricultural research organization, ICAMEX; from SEDAGRO, the secretariat of agricultural development for the state; from the Mexico’s national agricultural research institute, INIFAP; university professors and students; and a farmer. The private seed companies Monsanto, Aspros, and Tropico Seeds also sent representatives, in response to the course invitation. The event drew experts from key agricultural states of the country, including Durango, Guanajuato, Hidalgo, Jalisco, and Mexico.

“We’ve worked with farmers, but this is a different level and a diverse group from many different parts of the Republic,” said Govaerts. “We want to train researchers and machinery manufacturers, and then pass on to them the work of disseminating conservation agriculture, once things get rolling.”

The course focused on both the theoretical aspects and practical applications of CA, including its use in experiment stations and in other parts of the world, its impact on soil-plant systems, pest and weed control, zerotillage and sowing maize on permanent beds, and prototypes of machinery that can be used for direct seeding. On the second day, there was a demonstration of direct seeding of maize into residues on Toluca’s rock-hard soils, and participants interacted with local farmers to learn from their experiences applying CA principles.