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WHITE IRRIGATION

THE INTELLIGENT USE OF RAINWATER THROUGH A SOIL CONDITIONING AND CONSERVATION SYSTEM

As we know, water is a source of life, also an essential natural resource for the animals and plants survival. The water present in the soil must be initially absorbed by the roots to fulfill plants vital functions. 

In Brazil, in a certain period of the year, in most part of the “Coffee Belt” regions there are long periods of drought, which are strongly impacting the culture development.

The rational use of water in agriculture has become subject of many discussions around the world, with reflexions that bring us in mind: What can we do to ensure high productivity overcoming the lack of water? And how can we optimize the use of water without impacting the environment?

Facing this huge challenge, in Serra da Canastra region, that is home of one of the most biggest Brazilian rivers, São Francisco River, a technology has revolutionized the coffee-growing through an intelligent technique of water utilization without the need of complementary irrigation.

It all started 15 years ago in the city of São Roque de Minas, in Minas Gerais State, a region with dry climate, which suffered with lack of water over critical years and had soils with low fertility index, where the Coffee Producer and Agronomist Alessandro Oliveira together with the Researcher and Agronomist José Romero found a simple solution, economic and totally sustainable: “AP Romero System”, also known as "White Irrigation" due to the use of high doses of gypsum applied to the coffee fields.

Together, Alessandro and Romero decided to do a hardly research about the effects of gypsum overdosing on coffee physiology and its benefits. The researchers were progressing and winning efforts for several institutions of respect, as the Federal University of Lavras (UFLA), the Federal University of Viçosa (UFV) and Farming Research of Minas Gerais Companie (EPAMIG).

After several scientifics works been published in journals with high impact in the world and also after the training of researchers and professors in this issue, that system gained even more advantages. In addition to the great dose of gypsum with the best cost/benefit, it is essential for the operation system that the planting must be densified with up to 8000 plants/ha, with Brachiaria sp. acting as green cover between the lines and cultural treatments, replacing machinery by animal traction.

“The gypsum is a material that works as a sculptor of the soil, differently from lime, gypsum has the power to penetrate the soil and as soon as it infiltrates, it opens pores allowing the coffee’s root to grow vertically, becoming deeper and voluminous, in a system with a dose of gypsum ten times greater than the recommended”.

José Romero

“For us it is a great happiness to be able to invest in coffee growing without needing a drop of water that belongs to the São Francisco River as an irrigation practice. This wonderful river that is born in our region, bathes 4 other states and flows into the Atlantic Ocean, becoming one of the most important in South America.”

Alessandro Oliveira

 

Benefits

The use of all these practices resultsin soil conditioning to maintain or increase its fertility levels, reduce soil compaction, increase porosity, greater amount of organic matter and nutrient recycling, improve diversity and microbiological activity, increase the resistance to erosion and, finally, to expand the water retention capacity.

These benefits guarantee the maximum use of rainwater from a deep root system of the coffee tree, capable of fetching water retained in the soil up to two meters below the surface. For the coffee producer the finantial return came through the average productivity increasead of his fields by up to 18,5 bags/ha, in a historical series of six years