25 February 2021

Sowing opium poppy days

Opium poppy is a quite common crop in Spain and more specifically in the Albacete area, located in La Mancha land. Spain is the world's second largest opium poppy producer after Australia. It is a crop controlled in Spain by a single company, Alcaliber, since 1973. Alcaliber is the only company that contracts the production of opium poppy to farmers by renting their fields, supplies the seeds, their technicians together with the farmers follow the entire production process with regular checks. It is also their task, once the plant is dry, to harvest it with special harvester combines and processes included in the procurement of individual medicinal products.

The opium poppy cultivated in Spain, variety Nigum, is used for the production of morphine, codeine and thebaine. This whole process is surrounded by the strictest security measures (by Police agents).

Opium poppy is an ideal crop for the extensive irrigated fields in the province of Albacete and it is also a crop that has very good yields so it can reach about 3,000kg/ha (the price is around 0.8€/kg.). Moreover, the amount of needed water is not excessive (similar to cereals) and it is a fully mechanised crop.

If we focus on the sowing tasks that our friend Juan was carrying out, as you can see in our pictures and video, it is very important to have a well-prepared seedbed. This soil needs to be lightly tilled and even to be a little hard (it is worked with a cultivator, although the ideal situation is to use the power harrow very superficially and then roller it before sowing). The seed is left very shallow as the first watering will be responsible for covering it. As you can see, the seed drill has no rear harrow and it is disc seeder for maximum precision in placing the seed in the soil.

In one working day, many hectares can be sown as Juan's equipment consists of two twin Amazone D9-3000 Super seed drills with a working width of 6 metres. The seeding rate used is about 2 kg/he so he does not need to stop to fill the hopper during the day and the working speed is around 6.5 km/h. After sowing, a pre-emergence treatment is carried out in order to prevent the emergence of weeds and a small irrigation to fix the seed... but this will be another topic to be dealt with in another future post.

Versión en español.

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