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Shaping the conservation agriculture hubs in Central and North Mexico

CIMMYT’s Mexico-based cropping systems management team has developed a plan to set up decentralized learning hubs in different farming systems and agro-ecological zones in Mexico. Each hub will provide a benchmark site for research on the impacts of conservation agriculture (CA) on crops and the environment in the prevalent cropping systems of these regions, furnish a focal point for agro-ecological capacity-building and scalingout of research applications and innovation systems, and foster the emergence of regional CA networks. As part of this, they will engage multiple actors— farmers, scientists, machinery manufactures, decision-makers, and input suppliers, among others.

The hub in the Yaqui Valley, an intensive irrigated commercial farming region in northwestern Mexico, is in full swing. Three seasons ago farmers were using CA practices on only 25 hectares in the Yaqui Valley in Sonora State. One such practices is zero-tillage with residue retention, whereby wheat is sown directly into the residues from the previous crop without plowing. Today the practice is being used on 1,000 hectares. The cropping systems management team has established six CA modules in the region, and is preparing for work in the winter cycle promoting and testing with farmers and farmer unions the practice of cropping on permanent beds, employing a multi-use/multicrop seeding implement designed by CIMMYT. Local media have begun running stories on these efforts and farmers’ responses.

As part of a joint project with ASGROW seed company in central Mexico, CIMMYT research assistants Dagoberto Flores, Adrian Martinez, and Andrea Chocobar, together with Toluca station superintendent Fernando Delgado, cropping systems expert Bram Govaerts, and ASGROW representatives, established more than 20 farmer modules this summer in the Mexican highland states of Hidalgo, Mexico, and Pachuca, as well as organizing several events including the following recent ones:

  • (24 Sept) Farmer day at El Batán, involving 35 Texcoco farmers, with help from station superintendent Francisco Magallanes and the cropping systems management team.
  • (03 Oct) Farmer day in Toluca, with over 100 farmers from 3 Mexican states.
  • (15 Oct) First of several capacitybuilding course modules for ASGROW technicians in Toluca.
  • (23 Oct) Discussion day in Toluca with farmers regarding modules for harvesting, winter planting, and fallow preparation.

Team members are regularly visiting a local machine shop in Hidalgo State that is producing the multi-use/ multi-crop direct seeding implement, and will discuss advances with the machine builder and the local ASGROW seed distribution outlet. In addition to the CIMMYTASGROW initiative, the team is interacting with and supporting farmers and researchers in various other states of Mexico, with support from special Mexican production foundations, and is seeking additional funding from public and private partners in the country to further strengthen the effort.