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They did it … Permanent beds take off in northern Mexico

August 3, 2007

After years of research, things are starting to happen in the Yaqui Valley. Ken D Sayre and his agronomy team have been doing research on permanent bed planting with crop residue retention at the research station near Obregón. Results are very clear: use of permanent beds with adequate crop residue retention reduces irrigation water use, maintains stable yields, reduces production costs, avoids burning of crop residue, reduces CO2 emissions, and improves soil health. Based on results in northern Mexico and thanks to international training courses, this technology has spread to Turkey, China, India, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and other countries.

1Ironically, the irrigated, high/yielding areas of Mexico, where conventionally/tilled raised bed planting was developed and is a common practice, have been slow to adopt this next step towards conservation agriculture. But this may be changing. Recently farmer groups and government organizations (federal and regional) have shown interest in the technology. And now the first hectares with permanent beds were planted in farmers’ fields in Obregón, this summer cycle.

Rodrigo Rascón, Obregón Station Manager, Manuel Ruiz Cano, and Jesús Gutiérrez, collaborators in the agronomy team, worked out an agreement with two farmers to plant up to 5 ha each of sorghum on reshaped beds with full straw retention after wheat/ triticale. Only the CIMMYT prototype multi-crop/ multi-use implement was provided to the farmers plus training on planting from Rodrigo and the wheat crop management team.

Pleased with the effort the farmers insisted that a larger area be planted and therefore a total of 55 ha of sorghum was grown this way on the two farms. These plantings are true hallmarks in the efforts to extend conservation agriculture, permanent bed technologies in the Yaqui Valley. Many farmers have already visited the fields and local farmer groups recently held a farmer field day. Examples from other areas in the world tell us that the first 5 ha are the most difficult. Thanks to Rodrigo, Manuel, and Jesús, this first step has been accomplished!