Tropical Agriculture Research Station

By George Grow

This is the VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT.

The United States Department of Agriculture is honoring the work of the Tropical Agriculture Research Station. Agricultural Research magazine reports that the research station will celebrate its one-hundredth anniversary this year. The American government research center is based on the island of Puerto Rico, an American territory.

Ricardo Goenaga is the head of the Tropical Agriculture Research Station. He says the center studies tropical fruits that are economically important to the United States. Mr. Goenaga says changes in the diet of many Americans and population changes have increased demand for such fruits.

He notes that Puerto Rican farmers now grow mango plants on about eight-hundred hectares of land to provide for the increased demand for the fruit. He says most of the mangoes are exported to the United States mainland and Europe.

Some crops studied at the station already grow on American territory. Others are from warmer climates. Mr. Goenaga says the center tests fruits in different environments to identify where the crops grow best. He notes that Puerto Rico has three-hundred different kinds of soil. Also, different rainfall levels are reported on different parts of the island.

One major goal of the research station was the collection of tropical plants from around the world. Currently, about two-thousand kinds of plants are grown at the center. Many are not native to Puerto Rico. They include cinnamon, rubber, vanilla, black pepper, and camphor. Mr. Goenaga says the center receives requests for plants from many countries.

The research station is working with international agencies to study plants that are resistant to the disease black sigatoka. Black sigatoka is the disease most harmful to plantain and banana plants. It attacks plant leaves and reduces fruit production. The disease is not present in Puerto Rico. However, it has been reported in other Caribbean countries and in the American state of Florida.

Mr. Goenaga says future research will be on developing tropical fruit production systems. The goal is to help growers improve their production and expand the markets for their fruits. He says improving the nutrition of the fruits is also important.

This VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT was written by George Grow.

Voice of America Special English