10 May 2018

Olive Tree (I). Thinning pruning

In the following two posts we will deal with pruning tasks in olive trees related to: thinning pruning and formation pruning. On this occasion, we will talk about the thinning pruning (also called production pruning) that we have carried out on the olive trees that are in full production. These tasks are recommended when the vegetative activity of the tree is insignificant, which occurs between January and April. The aim of pruning is to help prevent premature aging of the tree, we help to renew the branches by removing old branches and creating a balanced growth. We perform pruning tasks of the olive trees every two years and we make that it coincide with the year they have most harvest (remember that they are trees that normally have good production every two years). In this way we help to make the year that generates less yield less aggressive for the tree.

Thinning pruning consists of selecting the branches to be removed so that air and light can enter through all parts of the olive tree. The olive tree, for its development and good production, needs a lot of sunlight, so when it has too many branches generates shade between them and this can be detrimental to its performance. Be careful if you remove too many branches as the light could damage the trunk by sunstroke. With this kind of pruning, we also take advantage of this to form the top of the tree and thus have the same shape, avoiding that the branches remain at great height and we may have problems in the harvest (we should highlight that we make a manual harvest).

Once pruning has been completed, all the waste generated must be collected. Years ago, the waste used to be eliminated with fire but in recent years the option of chopping the waste is dominating with the aim of reincorporating it back into the soil as organic matter.

After pruning, this is the ideal moment to cure the scars that have been generate with the cuts by means of phytosanitary treatments. Wounds are the main entry of bacteria into the tree... but we will talk about this in future articles.

Versión en español.

26 April 2018

Planting pistachio trees: Step by step

The pistachio crop is fashion. We really don't know if it is a bubble... we have to wait a few year to know it. Our friends Rafa, Frand and Iñaki have decided to plant pistachio and they are proud of telling us their experiences. After looking for ideal fields, information and receiving training about this crop, they have gone on the adventure of planting about 4 hectares, which is about 750 plants of grafted pistachio.

Their fields have no irrigation system, so the planting frame has been 7x7. They used the cornicabra pistachio rootstock because it is ideal for our weather. The UCB1 pistachio rootstock is more vigorous but it needs more water and fertilizer so it was dismissed. The variety used has been Kerman with Peter male pollinator in 1/9 proportion which is, according to the books/studies, the male that most overlaps his pollination time.

When they had to buy plants, they had to make a decision that will be very important in the long term:
  1. The cheap option. To be patient to plant cornicabra  rootstock (cost from € 0.5 to € 1.5). They have to wait at least a couple of years to start grafting on them. They have to add at least another couple of years to all the plants you have grafted with an average of 3 attempts of graft/plant. You are already at almost 5 €/plant cost and the most important thing is that "it loss 4 years until you can say that your field has pistachio trees".
  2. The expensive option. That was ultimately chosen. They bought the variety of pistachio already grafted with two years on the cornicabra  rootstock (the price is 10-12 €/plant). They are sure that all tress planted grow up evenly (except from, logically, the ones lost that are, since if it is a plant of guarantees they should not be more than 2-5%)... they think that with this way they will win a couple of years with respect to the first option and they could return the initial extra cost more quickly.
Before planting tasks, it is very important to make a soil analysis to rule out the presence of whorl, lethal for this crop. At the same time, they had to pass the subsoiler several times to have a good depth. Also, Besides, they had to buy the tutors (bamboo, wood, PVC, iron, aluminium,...) and the protectors (normally made of 70cm high plastic when it is for the grafted plant and mesh when it is for  rootstock). The selection of the tutor is very important, since it will be many years doing his job. In the case of Rafa, Fran and Iñaki bought galvanized steel hollow tube recovered from a sprinkler irrigation, 225cm high and 24mm in diameter. For the pistachio, the tutor has to ensure no less than 6-8 years of good support and great height because the males have to make the high crosses, not less than 1.8m.... so they ruled out the bamboo or wood.

In order to complete the planting tasks it is necessary to water. They irrigated more than 40l/tree. It is rather than the water requirements trees, by the mechanical action of compacting and removing air from the subsoil while helping the bare root of the plant to bind as quickly and better as possible with the soil.

Regarding the sale of the product, average prices are around 5 €/kg of opened pistachio although in recent years they have even been paid at 8 €/kg. Here and now, we have to see when this installation will pay for itself, 7, 8, 10 years.... we'll see it! 

Versión en español.

12 April 2018

Villoruela: Sowing potatoes days

​Last summer, we spoke about harvesting potatoes tasks. On this occasion, we have had the great opportunity to talk again with our friend José María with the aim to know the most important items about sowing potatoes tasks... We start!

The seedbed preparation is really important before beginning to sow potatoes. The soil has to be very ground, so they use rotary harrows for that. The main goal is to avoid clods because they can damage the potatoes’ skin. Also, it is important when they have to harvest potatoes because if there are a lot of clods, the harvesting work is more difficult and potatoes could be damaged in the screening and cleaning process.

When the seedbed is ready to sow, they have to prepare seeds. In this sense, they can use different diameter (size), but 28mm-35mm, 35mm-45mm y 45mm-55mm are the most common. José María sows the smallest diameter (28mm-35mm) because he doesn't split potatoes. In Spain, "to split, or not split the seed of potatoes, that is the question"; this discussion is very typical. This fact is only performed in Spain and the main goal is to save money with seeds. Potatoes can grow without problem when they are split but farmers have the risk of transmitting diseases in the machine that is responsible for splitting. Normally, if farmer sows big diameter of seed, he has to split seed so he has to buy little seed and cheaper (small sizes are more expensive since they are more complicated to get) and seed are multiplied. The price of seed (small diameter) is about 1​.2 €/kg.

Regarding the dose of seeds, Jose María uses about 1.100 kg/he so it is about 42.000 potatoes/he with 28mm-35mm of diameter.​ Each kilogram of potatoes sowed usually produces about 45 kg ... more specifically each potato usually produce about 15 potatoes.

As you can see in Jose María's pictures, he uses a Grimme GL-34 planter of 4 rows with a hopper of 1,200 kg. He can sow about 10 he/day at 7 km/h. The distance between rows is 75cm and the potato is buried about 10cm. The planter Grimme has a system to inject a long-lasting insecticide to prevent potato beetles. This insecticide is effective in whole life of potato plants. The distance between rows is large because potatoes need an important area to grow. If potatoes are not buried, their skin is damaged by the sun and the environmental conditions and they will be green potatoes. Besides, the production is quite numerous as we have already commented.

This year the sowing tasks are being delayed due to the rains, so it will surely generate a loss of production since the cycle of the plants will be affected... they can’t delay harvesting tasks because they could have problems with meteorology in September or October.

The potatoes take about 20 days to grow up and until they are 15cm height they won't start to be watered ... we will talk about all these questions later.

Versión en español.

26 March 2018

New cultivators. Longer lasting

Whenever we visit the stand of Bellota Agrisolutions at FIMA, we get surprised. Without any doubt, it is one of the most interesting stands of this Farm Fair for all the novelties they present and for the pleasant and professional reception that we always have from the staff of Bellota. On this occasion, it was very interesting to learn about the new, longer-lasting cultivators, which guarantee a constant working width and angle of attack throughout the life of the cultivator. These pieces are very used by Spanish farmers so we think a lot of people would like to know them.

Bellota has redesigned the new 1512, 1513 and 1599 cultivators in order to last longer. Firstly, the sweeps have been reshaped so that the working width is maintained as they wear away with use. The wing of the cultivator, which is more than 4cm, guarantees that the piece will always have the same working width for homogenous tilling in the fields. The two sides reinforced, with a point more than 2.2cm thick and 8.5cm long, ensures not only that the piece lasts longer, but also that the angle of attack is maintained so that the point of the cultivator can always penetrate the soil properly, thus minimum effort is required to till the land. There models are available: 1512 and 1599 (with 47º angle of attack) and 1513 (with 35,5º angle of attack). These cultivators have a working widths of 18.5cm, 23cm or 27.5cm and they are painted in black epoxy.

The 1512 and 1599 model (with 47º working angle) will allow you to work with less working depth. If more working depth is required, the 1513 is recommended due to its 35.5° angle of attack. In addition to all that, they incorporate a new design so that the two screws, that fix the piece to the arm, are more protected against wear. Also, thanks to a new deeper countersink, the bolts will be always protected.

Therefore, the two most important characteristics to take into account would be:
  • More constancy. The reshaped wings have a constant (18.5cm, 23cm or 27.5cm) working width maintained as they wear away with use.
  • More precise.  With the two sides reinforced (with a point more than 2.2cm thick and 8.5cm long), not only the point is always sharp but also the sweep lasts longer.

Versión en español.