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History of Agriculture

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The Islands had a deep fertile soil at the time they were settled, which was utilized first primarily for cotton, a short time for sugar cane and thereafter for cotton. Sugar cane was phased out with the abolition of slavery and with the decline of the world price of sugar.Old windmills such as this one found near the Belair Cultural Landmark serve as monuments to the agricultural productivity of Carriacou in the 1800's and early 1900's.
 
Cotton is no longer an agricultural product, production having tapered over the last 40 years. As with any monoculture agriculture, insect infestation developed. The necessity of controlling the insect pests without insecticides led the farmers to rip out the annual crop and burn it thereby killing the insects and eliminating their food source. Even wild cotton was removed. The result was devastating as further soil erosion occurred at an accelerated rate.

Limes were also grown on Carriacou up until the turn of the century, but production per acre was less than the yields realized in Grenada. Lime production was profitable until 1920 when many of the groves were abandoned.

This well, built to provide a constant source of water for livestock, can be seen in the Limlair-Thibaud Protected Seascape.
Coconuts were planted in the 1870's but were depleted in the late 1870's. Livestock were subsequently introduced on the smaller islands once soil fertility was depleted. Finally goats and black-bellied sheep were introduced and still provide improved breeding stock for Grenada. Sheep, cattle and goats are causing significant soil erosion resulting in decertification on the island. Compounding this problem is the "Let go season" where the animals are released to fend for themselves during the dry season. They promote rill and gully erosion which down cuts the subsoil and as a result water storage capability is reduced. Animals also reduce reforestation efforts and potential crop production. Although animals are very important to the economy, fencing and pasture establishment is needed. Some coconut plantations still exist which are in need of management and protection.
Natural vegetation
Beard's 1949 work, The Natural Vegetation of the Windward and Leeward Islands discusses "seasonal formations". When the evaporation from freshwater ponds and streams and the transpiration from plants exceeds the rainfall, a drought begins to occur. This is estimated to be at around 4 inches of rainfall per month (Charter, 1941). If the period of drought is short, the vegetation will be little affected, but longer droughts, as are characteristic during the dry season December through June, will adversely affect the diversity of flora. As a result, the smaller Islands are represented by a Dry Thorn Scrub - Cactus - Legume Association at its best developed stage. The plants have leaves during the rainy season, and with the exception of a few species, are leafless during the dry season, hence the plant association Dry Deciduous Seasonal Forest.
Areas deforested and left to "old field succession" generally come back in pure stands depending on adjacent seed source, relief, and soils. Vegetative tufts of Croton, Cordia, or Leucaena can be found, as can Bauhinia ungula and Cuidosolus ureus (Howard, 1950) (Beard, 1949). These forest type sub-climaxes are found primarily on the leeward side of the Islands.
On the windward side of the Islands, Coccoloba uvifera, Hippomane manchinella and Cocos nucifera are found on the beaches on the moist lowlands which descend to sea level. On the slopes which begin from the wave cut cliffs, the contorted, wind sheared and salt sprayed growth of Randia aculeata, Tabebuia pallida, Coccoloba caribaea, and various species of Capparis predominate. Opuntia dilleiri and Agave caribaeicola are found on the most extreme rocky steep cliffs. More inland the typical spiny Acacia - Albizzia - Pithecellobium Association may be identified.
Dominants in the open woodland are Bursera simaruba, Brosimum alicastrum, Pisonia fragrans, Ficus lentiginosa, in order of frequency.
Three epiphytic air plants are noted. These are Aechmea lingulata, Tillandsia utriculata and Tillandsia flexuosa. The latter two are in the pineapple family.
Two rare and unusual plants found on Carriacou are Morisonia americana or jumbie sapodilla and Lemna perpusilla which has been found growing on the surface of ponds.