Friday, January 29, 2010

Our R&D Manager for Fruta Bomba

Victor Salguero is our manager in our research and development efforts in Belize. His 12 person team and laboratory have been essential in developing more efficient agricultural practices for our papayas. Victor also works closely with Armando Monterroso who is the Director of R&D for Brooks Tropicals.

Victor is an Agronomist and an Entomologist with a bachelor’s degree from San Carlos, the national University of Guatemala, a master’s degree from New Mexico State University with a focus on plant protection and a PhD. from the University of Florida as an entomologist.

An entomologist is someone that deals with insects in general, but Victor finds that he must also deal with other pests because there is often no other person working with these other species: mites, snails, slugs, birds, mammals.

Insects - such as mealy bugs, aphids, mites – cause damage to the papayas. If we don’t control them, they will destroy the crops. The first line of defense is to apply biological controls such as predators and parasites.

Preventive measures are the best agricultural practices, like measures that deter insects from colonizing in the fields. Monitored periodically, if the insect’s presence is noted, Victor has many proactive measures to rid the field of the pest like introducing predators and parasites.

The Fruta Bomba lab is set-up to take in any abnormal plants or affected fruits found in the field. Every week there’s something new and Victor and his team identifies what it is and then make recommendations to the field on how it can be controlled. If a new disease is found, the spores are cultivated and grown in the laboratory to determine if it comes from a fungus, bacteria, virus or a physiological disorder. Then it is determined how best to fight it.

The lab does research on fertilizers, plant densities, irrigation, and other agricultural practices.

Recently they've been working with insect predators to control mealy bugs and mites. It’s not enough to know that the predators eat the insects; Victor wants to know how many of the insects they will eat. The more efficient the predator is, the more insects it eats. So the lab also grows insect pests, which seems counterintuitive but necessary, to feed the predators.

Many new agricultural practices are tested under laboratory control before testing in the field. The lab has one technician for computer analysis and another that supervises the ten R&D personnel who continue the lab’s work out in the field.

Victor was born in Guatemala. He is married with two adult children. His wife and children live in Guatemala.