Sustainability: Sculpting the Soil­

Sustainability: The AP Romero "White Irrigation" System

The AP Romero System is a technical, sustainable and creative solution for the producer to solve problems of water deficit, allowing the maximum production without the need to additional irrigation water.

Water is a source of life. And in Brazil’s “coffee belt” there are often long periods of drought which strongly impacts the crop.

Rationing water for agricultural use has become subject of many discussions around the world and brings to mind many questions: what can we do to ensure high productivity but overcome the lack of water? And how can we optimize the use of water without impacting the environment?
Facing this huge challenge, an inventive solution from the Serra da Canastra region has revolutionized coffee-growing near the São Francisco River. 

Growing Coffee without Extra Irrigation

It all started 15 years ago in the city of São Roque de Minas, in Minas Gerais State. This is  a region with a dry climate which often suffers from a lack of water during the most critical years as well as soil with low fertility index. This is where coffee producer Alessandro Oliveira and researcher José Romero found a simple solution that is both economically fruitful and environmentally sustainable. The two agronomists developed what is now called the “AP Romero System”, also known as "White Irrigation" due to the use of high doses of gypsum applied to the coffee fields.
 Alessandro and Romero began by doing extensive research about the effects of adding a large amount of gypsum to the soil. As the research progressed, they found a healthy balance that created a more vibrant soil that better utilized rainwater and needed less irrigation. 
After several articles were published in scientific journals, the team continued working with researchers and professors in this issue. They discovered that adding a cover crop of signalgrass between rows of coffee, helped improve the soil even further and reduce erosion. 

Less Water, Higher Yield and a Heartier Crop

The use of all these practices has resulted in very fruitful soil conditioning that:
• maintains and increases fertility levels
• reduces soil compaction
•  increases porosity
• adds a greater amount of organic matter and nutrients
• improves diversity and microbiological activity
• increases the resistance to erosion
• expands water retention
These benefits guarantee that rainwater is maximized due to the deeper, stronger root system of the coffee tree. It is now capable of fetching water retained in the soil up to two meters below the surface. Meanwhile, coffee producers are seeing financial gains with an increase of up to 18,5 bags/ha over the last six years.