Soil conservation are practices to stop or avoid erosion, conserve the soil, and improve its fertility and productivity and the Guatemalan Sugar Industry is committed to enforce such measures.
The Guatemalan Center for Research and Training of Sugarcane -Cengicaña- published in 1994 the first study of soils in the sugarcane zone and since 2012, it has been working on the subject with the Private Institute for Climate Change Research -ICC- for the development and implementation of practices for the conservation and sustainable use of soils.
Among the practices are:
- Soil analysis: this is the basic tool to know the properties of the soil and the availability of nutrients and physical and chemical characteristics which are analyzed by sampling the areas, the region’s climate, sun radiation, thermal amplitude, topography, inclination, and risks of erosion among others.
- Soil conservation structures and use of vegetation are implemented on the sides of the roads.
- The protection of wetlands, forest areas and natural water courses is promoted.
- Sowing the appropriate sugarcane that best adapts to each soil, based on its agronomic characteristics, resistance to pests and adaptation to climatic variations.
- Sugarcane cultivation is renewed every 5 years to maintain its yield, therefore, in some suitable areas this renewal is used to nourish the soil through the Green Fertilizer program of the sugar industry.
Sustainable practices to maintain soil fertility
The application of nutrients is vital to maintain the fertility of the soils and derived from the analysis of the fields, the strategies for their use are determined, among which are:
Use of green fertilizer
The Green Fertilizer program of the Guatemalan Sugar Industry is an ecological measure of planting legume plants that provide the soil with nitrogen and thus avoid the use of commercial products. When legumes are mixed with the soil, they provide organic matter that improves the texture and structure of the soil and promotes the development of microorganisms that are beneficial for crops.
Use of organic fertilizers
Organic matter improves the physical, chemical, and biological properties of the soil, favoring a greater availability of nutrients for plants and improving the health of the soil in general.
In the Guatemalan Sugar Industry, significant amounts of organic waste are generated as by-products that have high agronomic value, including filter mud, ash, and vinasse.
- Filter mud is a residue from the manufacture of sugar and provides the soil with phosphorus, calcium, and nitrogen, among others. It is estimated that each harvest produces more than 750,000 tons of this residue that is used to nourish fields.
- Vinasse is a liquid residue from the distillation of alcohol and is mainly made up of water, organic matter and minerals that benefit the soil.
- The ash, mixed with filter cake, is beneficial for soils with acidic Ph.
Rainwater is captured in ditches and wells; this is an agronomic practice that contributes to the recharge of groundwater. This agronomic practice is responsible for the environment, contributes to the recharge of groundwater, to mitigate the erosion of the soil by precipitation and to avoid floods.
The Guatemalan Sugar Industry has 2,507 hectares of natural forests, which are protected and cared for. The reforestation and conservation of forests on the banks of rivers help to recharge water, to conserve soils by avoiding erosion and are also natural barriers that prevent floods and serve as home to species of flora and fauna.
The soil is prepared for sowing: the objective of this practice is to prepare a good soil base for the optimal development of the plantation.
- In sandy soils there is minimal tillage to avoid impact on the natural conditions of the soil.
- In addition, there are minimum tillage or conservation practices to preserve the soil.
It is done during each crop renewal, they plant lines with green crops such as legumes alternating with lines of sugar cane, that is done in renewal batches.
The legume incorporates nitrogen and reduces soil erosion caused by water, wind and to make more efficient use of land.
Information from drones or satellite images is used to determine the topography or relief of the area so that crops are planted at the same height above sea level.
Rainwater has an easier time seeping into the ground to prevent erosion.