Imagine you’re a farmer growing fruit on steep mountainous slopes. It’s hard work; you wake before dawn and spend most of the day on terraces and hillsides, tending to your crop. But things are getting harder. Your country’s population is increasing, and more people are moving to the hills to farm. The climate is changing, throwing curve balls that your parents never had to swing at.
Imagine one day your fruit crop begins to sicken and die, and a pack of viruses begin to contaminate your land. You are forced to cut down some of the nearby rainforest to carve out a new field, and your neighbors are in the same situation. Between the lot of you, the rainforest is shrinking, but so is your ability to feed your family.
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“Improving the management of naranjilla is critical in order to avoid further deforestation, improve the health of farmers and improve the livelihoods of the farmers.”-Corinna Clements, Virginia Tech.
This might sound like the introduction to some apocalyptic dystopian work of fiction, but it’s reality for many Ecuadorian farmers who grow naranjilla, a tiny, tart fruit, which is hugely popular in Ecuador. Farmers desperate to meet the demand for the fruit are hemmed in by a number of bewildering obstacles: climate change, population growth, deforestation, over-farming, and an influx of new pests and diseases. Take for instance Fusarium Wilt, a soil-borne fungal disease, which is rampant in naranjilla plants. This disease stays in the soil season after season, and chemical pesticides can’t effectively control it.
The Integrated Pest Management Innovation Lab (IPM IL) has been working with INIAP (Instituto Nacional Autonomía de Investigaciones Agropecuarios) and Ecuadorian farmers to improve naranjilla production. Program researchers have come up with a package — a holistic suite of IPM recommendations — to boost naranjilla production.
This summer, Virginia Tech undergrad student Corinna Clements (who also works with the SANREM Innovation Lab) traveled to Ecuador to learn more about IPM packages that are being integrated into traditional farming techniques. These measures aim to decrease erosion and deforestation and improve crop yields and quality. Videographer and communicator Zeke Barlow from Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences tagged along and created an amazing video.
Also, the Virginia Tech Research Blog features photos and articles documenting the trip.
Take a gander!