The NRCS Caribbean Area Plant Materials program validates and adopts new plant species that can be used to address conservation resource concerns in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The objective of the Caribbean Area Plant Materials Program is to develop plants and technologies that have benefits for soil erosion control, water quality improvement on agricultural land, wildlife habitat improvement and pasture improvement. The Caribbean Area Plant Materials Program collaborates closely with the Brooksville Plant Materials Center in Florida and Ho’olehau Plant Materials Center in Hawaii.
The program is currently validating new species and varieties of tropical cover crops and cover crop mixtures. A demonstration plot of sunn hemp, cowpea, sorghum sudangrass, and a cowpea, sunhemp and sunflower mix was established in September 2022 at the Mayagüez Ecological Sciences Office. Planting rates and plant performance will be evaluated in farm trials.
In November 2022 a cool season grasses trial will be initiated to evaluate their performance in tropical conditions. New lines of black oat and rye grass, among other cool season grasses, will be evaluated. The project is a collaboration between Dr. Ann Blount at the University of Florida, Dr. Victor Guerra at the Brooksville Plant Materials Center, and NRCS Caribbean Ecological Sciences staff, Edrick Marrero (State Agronomist) and Francisco Rivera (Agroforestry and Grasslands Specialist).
Another project will introduce Arachis glabrata and Arachis pintoi varieties from the University of Florida and Plant Materials Center to evaluate their suitability as conservation covers for the Caribbean Area. These new varieties have great characteristics that can help farmers reduce soil erosion, reduce herbicide use for weed control, increase soil organic matter content, water infiltration and retention, carbon sequestration and many other benefits to confront the challenges faced by the Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands Farmers.
This waxy leaf type of Arachis was selected for being a low- growing, low-mantainance ground cover. It has thick round leaves with a shiny, waxy coating that makes it less susceptible to insect and disease injury. This low growing habit makes this plant a good candidate for a conservation cover in the Caribbean Area, and its behavior and performance in the Caribbean Area is currently being evaluated.
Arachis pintoi Conservation Covers Farm Trials
NRCS Caribbean and the National Plant Materials Center are conducting Arachis pintoi (perennial peanut) farm trials to evaluate its efficacy as a conservation cover for Puerto Rico's coffee farms.