The story

The aim of this course, which took place in Ferreira, a municipality in the Altiplano of Granada, where the leader of the course, Miguel Ángel Gómez, AR technician of the AlVelAl association and owner of the farm, comes from, was to provide information on integrated soil management through different regenerative practices.

During the workshop, more than thirty people were able to acquire theoretical and practical knowledge about soil management, specifically about the implementation of green cover, green manure and organic methods, such as manure, compost or pellets.

The workshop took place with limited participation and in the open air on several almond tree farms in the town of Granada, guaranteeing safety from COVID-19 at all times. In this way, the attendees were able to see first-hand the effect of applying different soil management techniques and exchange their  impressions. Miguel Ángel also provided graphic material to reveal the results of the research carried out on the plots seen during the course, adding scientific data to back up the theory presented.

Integrated soil management practices require knowledge and it is necessary to know how to manage them well so that they work to our advantage, otherwise they can bring us inconveniences and unwanted effects. This is the premise that Miguel Ángel kept in mind throughout the workshop, stressing that each management must be adjusted to the conditions of the farm where it is applied, so that in this way it has a positive impact on the land.

Learning how to manage green cover

The first stop took place in one of the experimental farms of the AlVelAl association, a space where different regenerative techniques have been implemented for more than 3 years, being an ideal place to check the advantages and disadvantages of green cover compared to other more conventional practices.

The fundamental aspect for which vegetation cover stands out is that of mitigating erosion, but it also provides organic matter to the soil, helps to control and mitigate the spread of unwanted plants and improves the infiltration of water into the ground, which offers the possibility of being able to work with wet soil, an addition that is highly valued by the farmer. This aspect was corroborated by some participants with olive groves.

“If we put a greeen cover on soil that is poor in nutrients, this green cover can compete with the crop, reducing production and the good growth of the tree”, says Miguel Ángel, who advises implementing the cover crop gradually, first reducing the number of tillage operations, providing nutrients in the form of manure, compost or pellets, and then proceeding with the implementation of the cover crop.

The management will depend on the type of crop and the soil conditions. In this demonstration farm, the attendees were able to learn about the different ways of managing a green cover, when it is sown, what species it is made up of and its subsequent incorporation into the soil.

In this demonstration farm there are also humidity sensors that provide information on how much humidity is trapped in the soil by means of three sensors that are underground at 25, 45 and 70 centimetres respectively.

The participants had the opportunity to see these sensors and interpret their data, “in September and October in the area where there is cover on days when it rains, the humidity has reached 45 centimetres, however, in the area where it is ploughed, the humidity has not reached as deep. On this land, it is essential that the moisture reaches this depth to fix the moisture in the soil and not lose it”, Miguel Ángel explains.

About green manure

The second part of the course took place on Miguel Ángel’s family farm, “this was a farm that was tilled 5 or 6 times a year, then less tilling began and the incorporation of manure and compost, and for the last 6 years green manure has been implemented here”, says Miguel Ángel, who provided documentation in which the participants were able to see the evolution of the farm from the first year to the present day, thus verifying the benefits of carrying out these regenerative practices.

Green manure consists of sowing a mixture of leguminous plants (such as yero and vetch) and grasses (such as barley, oats, wheat or rye), as each one fulfils a function: the leguminous plants create nodules that have the capacity to introduce atmospheric nitrogen into the environment, fixing it in the soil, and the grasses provide organic matter to the soil. Once the cover crop has grown, it is cleared and incorporated into the soil by means of a shallow ploughing pass, which means that the green manure has to be sown again each year or it is “knocked down” with a roller designed for this purpose.

“The desirable thing is to leave a strip to grow and then incorporate it, so that it comes out next year and with one year’s sowing you have enough for two, and these strips also affect the crop as they are outside the planting frame”, says the Ferrileño, who shared analyses of the soils that were being shown, as well as visual material so that the participants could see the evolution and quality of the soil according to the different practices applied, from data on tilled soils compared to others with cover, to soils where organic matter (manure, compost, pellets) has been added compared to others that have not.

In this workshop, the participants were also able to see first-hand how the vegetation cover is cleared using a chain brush cutter, as well as to see the roller developed by some AlVelAl partners, designed to implement this particular practice (knocking down and breaking up the vegetation cover).

This practice also has a very important benefit over ploughing in terms of alleviating the presence of unwanted plants, “if ploughing were the solution, no more unwanted plants would appear, but the more you plough the more these plants appear, so with the cover we can control them and prevent them from appearing, here in just one year we manage to stop the proliferation of unwanted plants on the estate”, says Miguel Ángel.

The AlVelAl association, through the seed fund, has encouraged members to carry out the plant cover technique, offering a fund of 20,000 euros in seeds that have been distributed among 37 members, so that they can implement these regenerative practices on their farms.

“With this kind of management we are benefiting society, promoting more biodiversity, improving the health of the soil and turning it into rich, healthy soil, which captures CO2”, remarked Miguel Ángel.

The training day ended among the almond trees covered with vegetation, offering an aperitif with local products accompanied by some wines from the AlVelAl territory, a great opportunity for discussion and exchange of flavours and nutritional knowledge among the participants, who were very participative and energised during the meeting.

Destination AlVelAl

Destination AlVelAl, which we are developing with TUI Care Foundation, is a holistic project that combines agriculture and livestock farming, tourism and culture. It aims to market the products of regenerative agriculture from the AlVelAl region and to promote the use of local products in the region’s restaurants, thus supporting the local economy through local products, with short marketing channels that generate more income for the people who work in the first sector.

To this end, ecological and regenerative agriculture is promoted through theoretical and practical workshops for the transmission of knowledge on regenerative agriculture, gastronomy, tourism and marketing to increase the added value of our products.

This training workshop on green roofs is part of the training cycle that aims to raise awareness among farmers and introduce them to different techniques to reduce erosion and make better use of rainwater.

Another of the project’s objectives is to attract tourists to visit a territory rich in heritage and to get to know, first hand, the farms that produce ecological and regenerative products for the soil and landscape.

This project aims to generate a positive impact on the AlVelAl territory through its main economic sectors.

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