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innovative crop protection and modern greenhouse technique at Bio-campohoijma

Spanish growers adapting biodynamic organic farming

Organic cultivation is on the rise in Almeria. Spanish growers are changing their growing strategy towards organic as their customers are demanding residue free produce. Making the switch from conventional to organic is not an easy step in the first place. However some growers in Almeria are going even one step further and are pioneering with Biodynamic Farming.

Besides being a grower himself, Francisco Martinez is the technical manager at biodynamic organic fresh produce marketeer Bio-Campojoima. This company represents a group of organic growers around the municipality of Nijar, east of the city of Almeria.  According to Martinez, biodynamic organic activities enjoy increased interest amongst the growers in the province of Almeria. "Camphoijma packs and sorts the harvest of a large group of organic growers in the Nijar region," said Martinez. "In total we have 60 hectares of organic growers, plus an additional acreage from organic growers that are collaborating with us. This group with additional growers expanded very fast over the years and nowadays we have 70 hectares of organic greenhouse growers who are associated with us. This makes the total area of our group 130 hectares."

The customers are demanding the organic produce year round, therefore Bio-campohoijma invested in special greenhouse structures to produce year round. "Normally the climate in Almeria does not allow greenhouse growers to cultivate a strong crop on a year round basis, said Martinez. "The climate inside our regular Spanish plastic style greenhouses gets too hot during the summer months July-August. In order to grow a strong crop, we have invested in a 1.5 hectare multi tunnel structure equipped with automatic controls to steer the climate. We can adjust the ventilation windows and also have a fogging system available for adiabatic cooling."

Thanks to this investment, Martinez is one of the few growers in Almeria that can harvest in August. "We planted the crop on the first of June," said Martinez. "This would not be possible under regular plastic. The structure and the fogging system helps us to maintain a strong and healthy plant, even in these hot months. We are now picking the first tomatoes (August 22) and will harvest until the end of April 2014. In may we clean and start over again. Of course this is a large investment, but the higher price we receive for our biodynamic certified produce is worth this."

Martinez is growing the variety Creativo, a cherry tomato on the vine by HM Clause. The produce is marketed with an official International Demeter certification. This certification is the oldest traditional organic certification in Europe and is regarded as the highest grade of organic farming in the world. Certification is difficult to come by and must be renewed annually. Demeter’s biodynamic certification requires biodiversity and ecosystem preservation, soil husbandry, livestock integration, prohibition of genetically engineered organisms and viewing the farm as a living holistic organism. That's also why Martines is keeping chickens at the farm and fertilizes the soil with manure to have a closed circle. The certification verifies the fulfilment of the standards on behalf of the farmers, which in turn guarantees high quality food products to the consumers. This is rewarded by receiving a higher price for food certified with the “Demeter” label, ranging from 10-30% on average.

To make it tougher for Martinez, he can not use any additional synthetic fertilizers, he is achieving an impressive yield of 8-10 kilo's per square meters. "We are using special biodynamic fertilizers based on animal manure and also add biodynamic fertilizers we make our selves, based on natural ingredients like plant extracts."  As an example Martinez showed us the manure and garlic extract he uses. Next to this he also experiments with biodynamical cultivation tips that he finds on the internet. "Right now we have an experiment going on outside; a sheep bladder filled with chrysantemum flowers. After one year, I can take the mix out of the bladder and plough it through the soil. This is supposed to be healthy for the soil, so worth giving it a try."

Also biological crop protection is very important for Martinez. They are using Nesidiocoris tenuis from Biobest in order to have a good control on whitefly and tuta absoluta.

"Biodynamic farming might be asking more for attention from a grower," concludes Martinez. "But on the other hand it is more and more appreciated in the market. In the organic segment, biodynamic produce is becoming a market on its own. The prices are good and stable. Together with the environmental aspect, I truly believe that we are heading towards a sustainable future with our cooperative."

For more information on Biological Crop Protection:

Biobest N.V.
Ilse Velden 18
2260 Westerlo - Belgium
T +32 14 25 79 80
F +32 14 25 79 82

Publication date: 10/3/2013
Author: Boy de Nijs





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