Manuel Cordeiro is dedicated to the production of fruit and vegetable crops in the area of Villa San Luis, in Florencio Varela (Buenos Aires). There, producing one hectare of strawberry involves performing up to 16,600 operations while squatting, a stance that producers must maintain for more than two hours. In addition, producers must move in an irregular terrain, between rows, for more than eight kilometers.
With the goal of reducing the time of tillage -which mainly involves opening and closing the system- and improving the producers' working conditions, a team of researchers from the state agency together with the Argentine Committee of Plastics for Agricultural Production (Cappa) is evaluating the incorporation of micro-tunnels, as an alternative coverage system for low-grown crops, such as strawberries.
The new coverage system, which was designed by Lorena Wosniak and Miguel Pagliaro (from the Faculty of Fine Arts of the National University of La Plata) and INTA technicians, improves working conditions in fruit and vegetable farms, uses less plastic -which implies a lower environmental impact- and decreases the time needed to open and close the system.
According to the specialist, the use of the proposed system has several advantages: "The opening and closing of the system is carried out on the horizontal axis, modifying the working position of the traditional system, which implies doing it on the vertical axis."
In this sense, Fernando Ocampo - a specialist in mechanics of IPAF Pampeana region of INTA -, said that they discovered during the field evaluation that the opening and closing time of the proposed system was significantly reduced: "In the traditional system, two people need 130 minutes of work, while in this alternative system they only need 76 minutes." "It requires up to 40% less time and physical effort from workers," he added.
Mario Lenscak, a specialist in horticultural crops of INTA, said that the height reached by the micro-tunnel allowed obtaining a greater volume of air and thermal inertia, which delays the cooling at night and warming during the day. In addition, he said, lower humidity was observed which supposes a reduction in predisposing conditions to diseases.