“La Matilde” is an agroecological enterprise located in 60 hectares of the Traslasierra Valley –Córdoba–, where until three years ago there were abandoned walnut trees, scattered livestock and no crops due to lack of water. In 10 of its hectares, the farm –designed by INTA Villa Dolores– generates more than 45 thousand kilos of food: it produces vines, fruit trees, olive trees, walnut trees, vegetables and pastures, it has water reservoirs for aquaculture and it even incorporates a goat farm .
"Biodiversity makes it possible to overcome the economic variables of the market, since if the price of a product falls, farmers can overcome the crisis thanks to the large basket of food they generate," explained César Gramaglia, from INTA Villa Dolores and project advisor . In the same way, he pointed out that the yields are similar in agroecological and conventional systems - in accordance with other experiences in the region. "The advantage of agroecology is that, by avoiding the purchase of inputs, the total cost of production decreases between 15 and 20% and increases the profit margin," he observed.
Gramaglia highlighted the impact of the value added at source in the production scheme which, in the case of goat milk, increases profitability by more than 300%. As he calculated, a kilo of cheese sells for $ 200 and requires eight liters of milk to make, which equates to $ 64 in production cost - $ 8 per liter.
Vegetables are sold fresh or canned, while aromatic and medicinal ones are dried with solar energy and offered to the public in a fractional way. Fruit sweets are also made and the development of a line of olive oil and organic wines is planned, as value-added initiatives.
"The production that is generated does not supply traditional markets, but is transformed into secondary products and marketed directly, from the farm itself to reduce the chain of intermediaries," said the technician. In the 30 hectares of native forest that surround the farm, the enterprise is carrying out a tourism project for which an adobe inn and a restaurant were installed, soon to be inaugurated. The remaining 20 hectares are sold as 2,500 m2 plots for the construction of ecological houses, using renewable materials and energy.
Due to the lack of water for irrigation, some diagnostic studies verified the existence of the resource in the subsoil and this allowed to carry out a drilling that, by means of a pump, fills a dam and supplies a drip irrigation system. "As the flow was still insufficient, excavations were made in the unevenness of the land that, waterproofed with plastic blankets, collect rainwater," added Gramaglia.
These reservoirs regulate the temperature and humidity of the environment and refract sunlight - which accelerates the photosynthesis process in plants. They also promote the development of aquaculture for self-consumption and are a source of water in fire situations. "In addition to thinking about the agronomic, it is necessary to plan the management of water for its collection, conduction, storage and subsequent redistribution for productive purposes or for human consumption", he summarized.
According to Gramaglia, the manure extracted from the goat dairy is reused to produce organic fertilizers that increase the fertility of the land and improve the yield of crops. This practice is complemented with the sowing of pastures between the lines of plants, fruit trees and vineyards that, in turn, are used to prepare fertilizers and as livestock feed. For his part, the technician indicated that "weeds are controlled only in the area of projection of the fruit trees, while they are allowed to grow in the space between plants to promote biodiversity and constitute a reservoir of natural enemies, fundamental in the control of pests ”. "When a biological balance is achieved, the same system neutralizes the inconveniences that can affect it and no inputs are required," he added.
To download the Inta Special on Sustainable and Efficient Agroecology, go to this link: http://intainforma.inta.gov.ar/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/158_agroecologia_.pdf