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Flood-Tolerant Plants

The Trinidad and Tobago Meteorological Service predicted that the dry season for 2020 will last from January to May 2020. There is no fixed date for the beginning of the wet season. Every year, however, historically April into May are the transitional months into a wetter climate. It is expected that any day now, we can get the official notification that the 2020 rainy season is here.

During the rainy season, farmers encounter issues such as loss of nutrients from the top soil, yellowing of plant leaves due to chlorosis, wilt or excess water, stunted growth, high pest and disease incidence and severe rainfall. For all farmers and home gardeners, now is the time to start planning the most suitable crops for the upcoming rainy season.

So what exactly is a flood-tolerant plant? Flood/water-tolerant plants possess a protein that is unstable when oxygen levels are normal which means that when a flooding occurs and oxygen levels are lowered, this protein becomes stable changing almost everything about the plant. The protein allows the slowing of the plant’s metabolism so it requires less oxygen, and controls/regulate key proteins called ‘transcription factors’ that turn genes on and off.

When water levels subside/go back down, these proteins become unstable again, creating a feedback, or ‘switch’ enabling the plant to survive. There are many research projects that are heavily invested in studying flood tolerant-crops as they can be a key in the fight against climate change impacts in agriculture.

Some flood-tolerant crops include spinach, peas, beans, ochro and cucumbers. For vining crops, a trellis can be constructed for the vines to run onto.  Ensure that you have a proper drainage system in your garden and avoid spraying harsh chemicals after heavy rainfall as these chemicals can enter waterways when the water is subsiding and have environmental impacts.

For crops that are not flood tolerant, avoid traditional agricultural practices when planting and utilise hydroponic methods such as Nutrient Flow Technique (NFT) systems or drip systems (using grow bags or grow buckets). We can strategically reduce the effects on flooding in agriculture if we plan ahead efficiently. As the weeks approach, we will look into various growing guides for these flood-tolerant crops and others.

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