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Helpful hubs

As part of the conservation agriculture (CA) hub initiative in the central Mexican highlands, 15 technicians who supervise CA demonstration modules met at CIMMYT-El Batán on 06 July 2009. CIMMYT has been partnering with ASGROW (a Monsanto seed company) to implement CA for highland maize cropping systems in this area for a little over a year. The module technicians, who are all also ASGROW representatives, each summarized their experiences with the recently planted CA demonstration areas.

“Each module is different,” said Bram Govaerts, cropping systems management specialist. “It’s a dynamic learning process for us and for the farmers as we work together to find out what works. This is the concept of the hub: to have our long-term trials as a training platform, to install modules with farmers in order to adapt CA to their systems, and to invite different partners to join us in disseminating CA.”

“I wanted to try something new to improve my products and yields,” said Alejandro Gómez Cornejo, a particularly motivated farmer who attended the event and has participated in previous tours of CIMMYT’s experimental station in Toluca. “I became interested when I saw the quality of the products they were getting and bit by bit I began implementing CA. The first year was difficult but we’ve been getting better bit by bit.”

It is farmers like Cornejo that some of the technician participants want to help. “As an agronomist, I want to improve rural areas that have low crop yields and subsistence problems,” said technician Arturo González Capistrán.

The day also included an information session on a Googleearth CA hub database. This tool will soon show all the farmer CA modules as well as information such as soil, altitude, latitude, previous cropping season results, socio-economic data, etc. “The database enables a steady flow of information between our technicians, partners, and farmers and is another way to disseminate CA,” said Govaerts.