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From Rice to Pineapples – Costa Rican Farmers Crave Precision Agriculture

by Sep 15, 2010International Perspectives

Back on May 12th I wrote a blog post about rice farmers in Costa Rica adopting precision farming practices and realizing the benefits of the technology.  Two weeks ago I had the chance to visit Costa Rica and talk with rice farmers about their operations and experiences with precision farming technology.  While talking to the farmers it came to light several of them also raise pineapple in addition to rice.

Due to Costa Rica’s tropical climate, it is ideal for growing pineapple.   Most pineapple producers have a contract with a large processor like Del Monte, Dole or others.  Almost all pineapple grown in Costa Rica is slated for export to the US and Europe.  It is sent as fresh fruit or canned into the various styles you see in the store – rings, chunks, tidbits or crushed.  The quality of the fruit determines what it is used for.

Pineapple field application in Costa Rica.

On this trip I learned pineapple is an application intensive crop with lots of money spent on fertilizer and fungicide; fertilizer is applied every two weeks and fungicide is applied weekly.  Due to the high cost of application growers are looking for ways to save on input costs.  They are very interested in adding boom-section control to their application practices to reduce the amount of fertilizer and fungicide used.

Something I found interesting when talking to the growers was how important it is for them to have good application records.  Since the majority of their pineapple crop is for export, in order to meet US and European regulations, they must provide all records of application to the processor.  Record keeping is a time consuming aspect of pineapple production and is very vital to getting paid for the crop.  The pineapple growers were interested in the data collection precision farming equipment provides along with the reporting and processing capabilities of precision farming software.  They were excited to learn about the Smart Report™ feature from Ag Leader that makes application record keeping simple.

Picking pineapple in Costa Rica.

For those of you who may not be familiar, Smart Report is an application report that can be automatically created and provides location, product information (what was applied), applied totals, field areas, as-applied maps and boundaries.  The reports are created as a PDF file that can be saved, emailed or printed.  While the Smart Report was originally created for grain crops it can be used in any crop for any type of application.  If you are not using the Smart Report feature for your operation you should check into it as it makes record keeping simple.

I will definitely follow up with the pineapple growers I met to see how boom-section control helps them save on chemicals and also how Smart Report helps with record keeping to meet export requirements.  Next time you purchase a pineapple from the grocery store it will be interesting to note it may have come from Costa Rica and a farmer using Ag Leader equipment.

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