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Conservation agriculture going strong in Sonora

CIMMYT’s conservation agriculture (CA) Mexico team is implementing a hub for irrigated systems in Sonora state, northern Mexico. Fundación Produce Sonora is funding the hub project in collaboration with CIMMYT; Patronato (a group of private farmers); the Mexican National Institute of Forestry, Agriculture, and Livestock (INIFAP); the Asociación de Organismos de Agricultores del Sur de Sonora (AOASS); and Mexico’s national wheat marketer’s organization (CONATRIGO).

“The hub aims to facilitate strategic and adaptive research and combine all elements to achieve impact in the farmers’ fields,” said Bram Govaerts, CIMMYT cropping systems management specialist. There are several on-farm modules for extension and adaptive research, and local private companies produced the CA planters based on the CIMMYT prototype. Also seed and herbicide companies are involved.

The CA team, along with its partners and some private companies, ran a two-week campaign to create awareness about the hub which received good media attention in northern Mexico. A CA field day held 22 April, 2009 and two informal cookouts (one with farmers and one with foremen and tractor drivers in charge of CA demonstration modules) held the previous week were covered by the newspapers Tribuna, El Diario del Yaqui, and two local radio stations. On its front page, Tribuna hailed the Yaqui Valley as a world class example of outstanding organization and collaboration between farmers and research institutions, and highlighted how this teamwork is now being used to support CA technology in the Valley.

The field day was opened by Antonio Gandara, president of Patronato, who said that it is the responsibility of all parties to work together in order to achieve higher quality crops with reduced production costs, and that Patronato is committed to assisting CA efforts. Speaking to the 50 participants of the field day, Govaerts said that the teamwork and dedication displayed by organizations in the Yaqui Valley helped make the Green Revolution possible, and with similar devotion the area could also become a central point for CA. He also emphasized the benefits of CA, such as a 20% reduction in farmers’ costs during the spring which can later translate in up to a 50% profit increase. “This year’s CA modules are performing well, with a yield of 7.9 tons per hectare of wheat harvested during the field day,” Govaerts said. “This is a slightly higher yield compared to the conventional system, but a significant reduction in cost of production.”

Govaerts extends special thanks to Rodrigo Rascon, Obregón station superintendent, the Mexico CA team, and to participating farmers for their support and dedication to CA in Sonora.