MEXICO CITY – Mexico has become a world leader in protected agriculture, using greenhouses and covering materials to grow tomatoes, peppers and other crops and thereby combat ecosystem degradation.
That method of farming, which is estimated to have enabled a doubling of vegetable production in Mexico over the past three decades, also can contribute to efforts to combat climate change, an expert told EFE.
Ecosystem degradation and depletion from industrial agriculture - particularly evident in the northern part of Guanajuato, where 50 percent of that central Mexican state’s 2,500 water wells are overexploited - are a major concern for growers, who stress the importance of developing agricultural systems capable of checking that scourge.
In that regard, “new technological advances in the area of protected agriculture, as well as greenhouse innovations, are enabling 20 percent of the country’s agricultural production to be carried out using these techniques,” Homero Ontiveros, a consultant for GreenTech Americas, a networking event that will take place in late March in Queretaro, Mexico, and is aimed at accelerating the adoption of protected agriculture technology in Mexico and throughout the region, said in an interview with EFE.
He explained that protected agriculture has grown exponentially over the past 20 years in Mexico, which ranks top five globally in the use of these types of farming techniques and is the leader in Latin America.
“The world no longer has that much fertile land for extending cultivation areas, and we don’t have more irrigation water. That’s why we need indoor agricultural systems,” he said.
Ontiveros noted that in Mexico this farming method is used over a 50,000-hectare (193-sq.-mile) area, primarily to grow fruit, vegetables and medicinal plants.
Protected agriculture involves the application of different technologies, including digital monitoring applications and hydroponics, for use as needed by small, medium and large farmers.
Ontiveros stressed the importance of disseminating these types of technologies and training farmers, particularly in regions where the climate is variable.
He pointed in particular to geothermal energy-powered greenhouse systems in the Netherlands that optimize water use, save electricity and control pests, adding that they serve as models for countries like Mexico to follow.
These methods of farming also are the best means of tackling climate change and world hunger, the expert said, adding that the global population is projected to rise to more than 10 billion people by 2050 and that food production will need to double to meet that additional demand.
A third of the planet’s food production is currently squandered, and that waste comes at a high environmental cost because each year it contributes 8 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions.
For his part, the president of the Mexican Agricultural Biotechnology Council, Marcel Morales, said protected agriculture systems are a great solution for improving food productivity because, among other benefits, they enable climate and water control.
He agreed that Mexico needs to better promote greenhouse technology to efficiently capitalize on this agricultural system and said Mexican farmers also need additional training, particularly in fertilizer use.