Today we visited a strawberry production field in the Bajio Region, specifically Irapuato, which is the strawberry capital of the world. Strawberries are an introduced, high cash crop to this region. Many different crops have been introduced to Guanajuato; such as lettuce, asparagus, onion, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, alfalfa, sour gum, carrots, and barley. The natives of Guanajuato depend on introduced crops for their own source of food and profit from the crops which are exported to the United States and other areas of the world.
The field that we visited today utilized high tunnels. High tunnels are constructed of a metal frame covered with white plastic; they are easier to construct, maintain, and are less expensive than green houses. Also, high tunnels are very versatile and can be moved to different fields with ease. Strawberries can be grown in an open field or in high tunnels, but high tunnels produce a greater yield than open fields. For one hectare (2 acres) of land, an open field yields about 40 tons of strawberries per year while a high tunnel can produce 80 tons per year. To cover one hectare of land with a high tunnel costs 250,000 and the plastic covering will last for three years. There are many benefits to high tunnels, the most important is that the workers can manage the environment to ensure that their crops produce the highest yield possible.
The strawberry field workers use a special type of irrigation called drip irrigation, which means that a hose is run underground and drips water on the roots. This type of irrigation is fantastic because it minimizes the chance of evaporation and reduces the chance of foliage disease, which is the exact opposite of aerial irrigation. Drip irrigation reduces the amount of water that is wasted and maximizes plant growth. Also, the workers spray the strawberry plants once a week with a high pressure soap and water mix, this is to control pests without the use of pesticides. This also maximizes their profit because many people are willing to pay a greater price for organic fruits and vegetables.
The strawberry field has a highly synchronized system, both biologically and economically. Biologically, they are very systematic with how they grow the strawberries, from how they provide water straight to the roots to using high tunnels. Economically, human management is the central force behind the success of the strawberry business. Although there is the highest yield in May, there is not a market for strawberries because they are also being produced by California, Florida, and personal gardens. The best exporting months for Irapuato are November through February because the United States are not producing any strawberries at that time, it is their window of opportunity to maximize their profit.
On Thursday, we will visit the strawberry crystallization plant. This is where workers take fresh strawberries and freeze them before the strawberries are exported. Today was very interesting and I enjoyed learning about strawberry cultivation.