On this International Volunteer Day, Partners' F2F program would like to highlight a previous team assignment in Guatemala. We would also like to express our sincerest gratitude and appreciation for all of our F2F volunteers, past and present, who have exemplified the true meaning of volunteerism.
|Dr. Lindsey du Toit assessing onion crops at a field|
Earlier this year, Lindsey du Toit, Professor of Plant Pathology at the Washington State University, and Bill Buhrig, Extension Educator at the Oregon State University, traveled to the Sacapulas region of Quiche in Guatemala to provide training and assistance to the Association Sacapulteca (ASPROCE), a collective of onion growers in the region. Combining their respective expertise in plant pathology, and crop fertility and post-harvest management, Lindsey and Bill were able to develop a comprehensive analysis of current onion production practices and recommend ways in which the producers could improve the quality and quantity of their onion yields.
Dr. du Toit’s assignment focused on helping the growers manage the diseases that were harming their onion crops and significantly reducing their yields. Meanwhile, Bill’s assignment had the dual purpose of training producers in onion crop fertility and post-harvest storage of onions bulbs to increase the quality and shelf-life of their crops. During the beginning of their trip, they visited several fields to observe current production practices, pre- and post-harvest, and evaluate the conditions of the onion crops.
|Bill Buhrig & ASPROCE member at a training session|
Bill observed the post-harvest handling of the crops and storage facilities being used. While he was impressed with the storage facilities growers were using, they were also storing many onion bulbs that were infected with diseases like bulb rot and trying to mitigate infections post-harvest. Following these observations, Bill and Dr. du Toit worked together to determine the causes of the diseases, like bulb rot, and the best practices to reduce the risk of infection.
Dr. du Toit specifically assessed the incidences of diseases that were most prevalent. She observed that the crops grown at higher elevations experienced a prevalence of bacterial leaf blight, while crops grown at lower elevations tended to be affected by Iris yellow spot virus (IYSV). She also determined the prevalence of pink root in crops grown at all elevations.
Both Dr. du Toit and Bill concluded that the key factors triggering these diseases were excessive irrigation cycles and amounts of fertilizer being applied to the crops. These practices were contributing to the pre-harvest and post-harvest bulb rot that the groups were encountering. Bill conducted several demonstrations using a soil moisture sensor and fertilizer spreader in order to introduce better ways to measure the amount of irrigation and fertilizer needed. In addition, the team observed that several onion bulbs were being transplanted too deep into the ground, which prevented the necks of the bulbs from drying properly, creating a higher risk for disease infection. They recommended placing the crops so that approximately 80 percent of each bulb was above the soil.
Through the volunteer team’s assessments and recommendations, it is expected that ASPROCE growers will be able to take critical steps towards improving their disease management practices and consequently increase the quality and quantity of their crops, while also extending storage life.