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.