The Guatemalan Sugar Industry has planted 5.9 million trees to recover forests

Guatemalan Sugar Industry Reforestation Program

The Guatemalan Sugar Industry has planted 5.9 million trees from 2011 to date, as part of their reforestation plan in areas such as riverbanks and the upper part of the hydrographic basins, to improve the river’s water recharge capacity, and to transform the areas into biological corridors and also to contribute to the recovery and conservation of flora and fauna.

Guatemalan Sugar Industry Reforestation program

The Reforestation Program, implemented by the Sugar Mills through the Private Institute for Climate Change Research -ICC-, has among its priorities the recovery and conservation of the hydrographic basins of the rivers that flow into the Pacific Ocean, in the face of climate change.

The program, in addition to recovering wetlands, water sources and riverbanks, has a factor of community involvement and support, since all the trees come from over a hundred local nurseries managed by the communities.

Guatemalan Sugar Industry Reforestation Program

In 2020 the Guatemalan Sugar Industry planted more than 818,000 trees, and in each region, native species are planted for conservation, energy and timber purposes, among them the species, Matilisguate, Puntero, Volador, Cedar, Mahogany, Palo Blanco, Mother Cacao and Plumillo.

The forest coverage study of the National Institute of Forests (INAB, 2019) reveals that between 2010 and 2016 forest coverage increased in the departments of the south of Guatemala in 37,857 hectares, equivalent to more than 25,800 soccer fields.

Green fertilizer for environmental sustainability

Crotalaria flower

The Guatemalan Sugar Industry maintains its commitment to environmental sustainability, so through the Guatemalan Sugarcane Research and Training Center -Cengicaña-, have implemented the green fertilizer program.

Green fertilizer is part of the healthy soil program that some sugar mills have. This ecological measure consists of planting legumes that provide nitrogen to the soil reducing the use of commercial products.

In addition, it integrates crop rotation, intercropping, pest management, and soil conservation and nutrition in an environmentally friendly way.

Legumes and crop rotation

Legumes at Ingenio La Union
Photo courtesy of: Ingenio La Union

The cultivation of legumes as green fertilizer is a frequent practice in agriculture, in the case of the Guatemalan Sugar Industry crotalaria, a legume that produces a yellow flower, is used. Crotalaria is a genus of flowering plants in the legume family Fabaceae (subfamily Faboideae) commonly known as rattlepods.

Sugarcane cultivation is renewed every 5 years to maintain its yield and in the ideal areas, this renewal is used to nourish the soil with leguminous plants which grow and remain in the field between 6 and 8 months. Approximately 3 thousand hectares have been planted with crotalaria.

Legumes incorporate organic matter into the soil that provides nutrients, mainly nitrogen, one of the most important for plants and that will be used by subsequent crops.

Soil conservation and pest management

Legumes are the only group of plants that can capture nitrogen from the air and incorporate it into their organism. When they are mixed with the soil, they contribute organic matter that improves the texture and structure of the soil. In addition, it promotes the proliferation of microorganisms that are beneficial for crops.

Crop rotation also helps in pest control because, by exchanging the cane for legumes, the life cycle of the insects that feed on the sugar cane is broken.

All these good practices are promoted by Cengicaña with the aim of integrally using biological elements that are sustainable with the environment for the cultivation of sugar cane.