Mexico: blueberries offer alternative to Sinaloa growers

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Mexico: blueberries offer alternative to Sinaloa growers

Pest and diseases have led to serious issues for mango and chili pepper growers in the Mexican state of Sinaloa. These traditional crops used to pay dividends, but tackling these problems have led to rising costs. At, we hear from the Sinaloa Produce Foundation's César Martínez who discusses experimentation in the region with non-traditional crops, with blueberries as a potential lifesaver. Blueberries in boxes at the greengrocer

Martínez says a key problem with traditional crops in Sinaloa is the diminishing returns for trade, with concentrated production from December to January for chilis peppers and from June to July for mangoes.

"The main problem is trade, since being monocultures production is concentrated in the area for a short time, causing an oversupply and declining significantly income expectations that come to less than US$1.00 per kilogramfor mangoes and under $3.00 for the case of Chili peppers," says the foundation's southern zone operating coordinator.

This is why the foundation has looked to alternatives for growers, and hopes are high that blueberries will be a good bet.

"The state of Sinaloa in particular has a tradition of production and logistics for export, and for the domestic market mainly in vegetables.

"Adding to this the favorable performance of genetic materials in areas with similar climates, the state is placed with attractive potential areas for growing blueberries."

He says a problem with blueberries is that they have a great demand for nutrients, which means efficient nutrient management is needed if growers are to reach yields of more than 5 metric tons (MT) per hectare.

"The Sinaloa Produce Foundation has three blueberry varieties underway in the south of Sinaloa. The varieties being evaluated are Biloxi, Sharpblue and Star, which are all highbush and have shown minimum requirements in the accumulation of cold hours for good development in the productive areas of Mexico.

"We have researched and taken references of what is being done commercially in Chile and the U.S. in blueberry production. In addition, In Mexico the established commercial zones have been visited in the states of Michoacán, Jalisco and Colima."

Martínez points out these varieties were chosen as Sinaloa has a subtropical warm climate on the coastal plain, with summer rains that reach an annual average of 500-600mm (19.68-23.62 inches) and an average annual temperature of 24.8° C (76.64°F).

In Mexico, blueberry production occurs during the months of October to June. The competitive advantage you can have in the south of Sinaloa is that it's free of frosts, which is why blueberry production is feasible during those months.

"Currently the Sinaloa Produce Foundation is evaluating the adaptability, and productive and economic feasibility of the three blueberry varieties, with a surface area of 0.5 hectares established.

"Once the productive and economic viability is determined for the crop for the southern coast of Sinaloa, we will have the necessary information for the region's growers to adopt it commercially."

The first validation results are expected between April and May this year.

Photo: Fotolia, Ina van Hateren

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