Thursday, May 15, 2014

From Coffee to Citrus: Citrculture in Colombia

Vista of coffee growing in the mountains of Colombia
Colombia has traditionally been known for its production and export of high-quality coffee. Because coffee is grown at higher altitudes (roughly 1,400 meters above sea level), this leaves large parts of the country at lower altitudes available for alternative crops. Many of these areas have optimum soil conditions and climates for crops like citrus fruit. In Colombia, almost 45,000 hectares of citrus fruits, mainly oranges, tangerines and lemons, have been planted throughout these lower altitude regions. The citrus sector faces some significant growth challenges though. There are very few nurseries cultivating citrus plants and no regulations to monitor the health of the propagation materials used in citrus plantations. Technological deficits in crop management, irrigation control, pruning, fertilizing, and harvesting are also hampering increased citrus production. Combined, these problems contribute to low and unpredictable yields.

Ben Faber during a 2009 F2F assignment in avocado
production in the DR
In response to these difficulties, Colombia’s National Apprenticeship Service (SENA) reached out to Partners of the Americas’ Farmer-to-Farmer program to request the assistance of a U.S. citrus expert. SENA is a national organization that provides comprehensive vocational and technical training to Colombians in order to increase national productivity and promote the economic and social development of the country. 

In September 2014, citrus expert Ben Faber will be traveling as a Flex F2F volunteer to Colombia to train SENA technicians on proper management (i.e., irrigation, fertilization, integrated pest management and harvesting) of citrus nurseries and orchards in order to increase their productivity and global competitiveness. He will also work with Colombian experts to identify and implement best practices for the proper development of nursery plants suitable for planting across the country.

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