Crop management

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intercropping

New projects:

  1. How can farmers do successful intercropping between trees and aromatics or ground covers in dry/semidry areas like the altiplano in the South of Spain? Intercropping in the south of Spain is not a common practice. Besides that,the Common Agricultural Policy surrounding the topic is vague on its implementation, farmers are hesitant regarding intercropping because of the fear for competition with their main cash crop . This has much to do with the fact that the annual rainfall in the region do not surpass 300mm a year. However, polyculture systems are gaining more attention because of their presumed benefits on both environmental and economic performance. Could this also be the case for South Spain, and what would be the most effective polyculture design?

  2. Analyse the  potential  of new crops  uses,  yield, harvest, processing and other issues for every crop that is now farmed. La Junquera farm (1100 ha) is constantly innovating and restoring its surroundings. To do this in the most effective way it is important to map the new crops that might be better adapted to climate change and that do well with very little rainfall. The farm is also looking for new sustainable business ideas that help it diversify and spread the risk in an ever-drying region. 

ground cover management

Current research & projects:

  1. In the autumn of 2018 we started an experiment with different types of ground-cover in the pistachio orchard at La Junquera. A mix of Yeros, Veza, Cebada and Mustaza grow along natural occurring vegetation between the pistachio trees. This permanent ground-cover could be an important measure in preventing evaporation of water from the soil. Moreover, the extra biomass in and above the ground will support life in the soil and the build up of organic matter, witch will make the soil more fertile. On top of that the flowers will attract pollinating insects.

New projects:

  1. The ground cover experiment mentioned above needs to be fine-tuned (in terms of design) and re-implemented. The combination ground cover and no tilling: how can this be implemented, what are the steps and which crops need to be put as ground cover?  (there is only one  successful example in the region, but  its  considered as one of the most  important practices  in  stopping erosion). There is a great need for examples and trials to showcase how this is done.

  2. Every year harvest is lost due to an increasingly irregular climate. Late frosts are occurring more often and can result in the freezing of almond flowers (meaning a complete loss of a years’ harvest). A question that is still unanswered is: does ground cover affect the freezing of the almond flowers (can you create a microclimate e.g.)?

  3. Another project we would like to start is focussing on how biodiversity can be increased by different ground covers over the season

soil quality & monitoring

Current research & projects:

  1. One of our students in 2019 has been doing research on the soil quality with different 3 types of management: One in the apple orchard with tilling twice a year and mowing 3 times, One in the vegetable orchard with young walnut trees and tilling once a year and one in our fruit forest with no disturbance of the soil. In a few months we will know from the results of the lab tests how these different types of management have affected the soil for the past seven years.

New projects:

  1. Reforesting plots on the farm is part of our strategy to make the farm as a whole more regenerative. Building up the soil is one of the objectives we have. We aim to start a project to research how the organic matter content is affected by reforestation.

  2. The same question holds for restoring soil life: Does life in the soils increase by doing natural zone restoration and reforestation?

  3. Myccorhiza: what kind of Myccorhiza can we find in the soil, where and why? We would like to start a projects on comparing across different managements

  4. Effect of contour ploughing on rainfall/runoff infiltrations

compost

Current research & projects:

  1. One of our students has done research on the best ingredients of compost with what is available on our farm (sheep manure, horse manure and straw). So why is compost so important? It improves soil structure, porosity, density, creating a better plant root environment; Increases water infiltration and permeability in heavy soils; Improves water holding capacity, reducing water loss and making nutrients available to plants; Supplies organic matter and a variety of macro and micronutrients as well as beneficial microorganisms; and buffers soil pH and improves exchange capacity (CEC) of soils and growing media, improving their ability to hold nutrients for plant use.

climate adapting crops

New projects:

  1. Research the net impacts of climate change on the crops grown at La Junquera.

pollinators

New projects:

  1. Identify arthropod (insect) mediated ecosystem services that benefit the farm, their providers and how they can be enhanced. The services that insects provide play an important role in the functioning of agriculture. Most well-known are pest control and pollinators. Due to land use simplification and agricultural intensification we are losing these important players rapidly. What are pollinator and pest controlling species in Southern Spain? What measures are there to enhance their abundance and maximise their activity? Can you prove that their presence has a significant beneficial effect on crop production?