Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Shade Structure Frustrations at the ECHO Asia Seed Bank

As a result of climate change, many regions are experiencing record heat which is negatively impacting crop production.  One response to mitigate the effects of high temperatures is to grow crops under light shade.  Most garden crops tolerate and even thrive with some shade as the impact of extreme high temperatures can be muted by blocking intense sunlight.  This also helps to conserve soil moisture.
At the ECHO Asia Seed Bank, a shade structure was recently erected in the Thailand plot (we also currently have production plots named for India, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar).  Covered with 50 percent shade cloth, the positive effects were soon obvious.  Upon entering the plot, there was a noticeable temperature difference of several degrees.  The hot season vegetables looked great with less heat stress, especially with reduced evaporation from the plant bed soils, which also translated into less watering.

But experts say that along with higher temperatures, climate change will bring more intense storms.  Once such event occurred in early May, bringing most of the new shade structure to the ground.  Needless to say, it was a huge disappointment.

But we are determined to learn from our mistakes and press forward with a new and improved shade structure.  Stronger reinforced posts will be used.  We will also install an overlapping vent into the roof structure to lessen possible lift from high winds.  And we may also stretch clear plastic sheets across the structure to protect the production plots from the effects of heavy rainfall during the rainy season.    

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