Field Day on Conservation Agriculture organized by ASAJA-Seville and the AEAC.SV within the framework of the Life + Climagri project

More than 100 farmers gathered last October, at the Field Day on Conservation Agriculture, organized in Las Cabezas de San Juan (Seville) by ASAJA-Seville and the AEAC.SV within the framework of the Life + Climagri project, and in which attendees could learn about the benefits of conservation agriculture and techniques to improve water management and soil fertility, to reduce erosion and to save fuel.

The event, held on October 26, 2017, was inaugurated by the mayor of Las Cabezas de San Juan, Francisco José Toajas; the president of ASAJA-Seville, Ricardo Serra; the president of the AEAC.SV, Jesús Gil and the general secretary of ASAJA-Sevilla, Eduardo Martín, who moderated the technical conferences.

The president of ASAJA-Seville, Ricardo Serra, explained that the Field Day was one of the informative events that ASAJA-Seville was developing within the Life + Climagri project, a project led by the Spanish Association on Conservation Agriculture-Living Soils (AEAC.SV), supported by ASAJA-Seville, the European Conservation Agriculture Federation (ECAF), the The Andalusian Institute of Agricultural Research and Training (IFAPA) and the University of Cordoba.

The project focuses on the development of strategies for the agronomic management of extensive crops in the Mediterranean basin that enable the mitigation of climate change and the adaptation of crops to present and future climatic conditions, and that serve to promote and develop the environmental policies of Spain and the rest of the EU regarding climate change.

The agricultural sector is one of sectors that can be most affected by climate change, what negatively affects agricultural yields. Therefore, as Serra explained, "it is necessary to adapt to it as soon as possible and take measures to mitigate the effects of climate change and its economic, social and environmental consequences, taking into account the important role of the agricultural sector as a supplier of food, environmental goods and services ".

Conservation agriculture, which is the agriculture of future, is already present in many areas. "It is," Serra insisted, "a sustainable commitment to the environment that can be hindered if the European Union finally turns its back on glyphosate, an effective, contrasted and innocuous herbicide that allows the development of conservation agriculture techniques."

The action of the Member States and the decision-making bodies of the European Union on the renewal of glyphosate is being absurd, because instead of meeting the criteria of the competent health agencies of the EU, politicians are taking their decisions based on the guidelines that are marked by social networks. It is a total nonsense with serious consequences for general agriculture and especially for conservation agriculture.

The mayor of Las Cabezas, Francisco José Toajas, corroborated the tangle of confusion that has been woven around glyphosate and complained that scientific criteria do not prevail, because this type of decisions taken in Brussels affect agricultural municipalities such as Las Cabezas and lead to economic death a social and family activity such as agriculture, which is extremely necessary for rural life.

Finally, at the end of 2017, the European Commission approved the renewal of glyphosate for a period of 5 years, a time shorter than that requested by the agricultural sector, despite having received positive evaluations from the European Food Safety Authority (AESA) and the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA).

The president of the AEAC.SV, Jesus Gil Ribes, highlighted some of the effects that climate change is already producing and pointed out that in the last hundred years the temperature has increased by two degrees in large areas of Andalusia, and the problem of erosion in Spain is becoming more serious. He claimed that all that can be avoided by abandoning heavy tillage and protecting the soil with groundcovers, so the commitment to Conservation Agriculture is now more necessary than ever.

The general secretary of ASAJA-Seville, Eduardo Martín, emphasized that this organization has a lot of experience in the development of informative projects, in fact, this is the sixth Life project in which ASAJA-Seville participates and it is probably one of the easiest to spread, because the consequences of climate change and adaptation needs are, unfortunately, exceedingly evident.

The Life + Climagri project, as Martin indicated, is limited to the Mediterranean basin, as it is one of the most vulnerable areas to climate effects in Europe, and to irrigated crops, which are very demanding in terms of energy consumption. Andalusia is, due to its edaphoclimatic characteristics, the main focus of study, and it involves a total of twelve farms in Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece.

Good agricultural practices to mitigate climate change

During the technical conferences, IFAPA (Alameda del Obispo) researcher, Rafaela M. Ordoñez, warned about the consequences of climate change impact on agrarian systems, which will lead to a predictable reduction of water resources and the parallel increase in temperatures. Given this scenario, the action of Andalusian farmers to mitigate the consequences should be directed to the development of good agricultural practices which can reduce CO2 emissions. Ordoñez said that agriculture is the only productive activity that, besides emitting CO2 , has the capacity to absorb it and act as a sink, what should be valued and recognized by society.

Afterwards, the president of the AEAC.SV, Jesus Gil Ribes, presented the agricultural sustainability evaluation of the European farms and explained the objectives of the INSPIA project supported by 60 European farms in which they regularly use fifteen good agricultural practices: permanent land cover, no tillage, use of groundcover, irrigation and plant protection products optimization, implementation of multifunctional margins, establishment and maintenance of margins in riverbank areas, optimized waste management, etc.

The agronomist of the University of Córdoba, Julio Román, spoke about the agricultural practices useful for the conservation of soil and water, stressed the importance of soil, which is the main asset of a farm, and the need to conserve it through good agricultural practices.

After the technical conferences the attendees could see the practical application of conservation agriculture "in situ", in the farm "La Jurada" where a demonstration of machinery and tools for conservation agriculture took place.

This Field Day had three stations. In one of them the engineer responsible for the agronomic management of the farm La Jurada, Juan José Pérez, and the agronomist Manuel R. Gómez, explained their experience in the last six years and highlighted all the improvements at the agronomic, economic and environmental levels that have been experienced in La Jurada after the adoption of conservation agriculture.

In another station, the agronomist Julio Román showed the measures of application in order to reduce runoff and erosion; while in the third one the professor of the University of Córdoba Gregorio L. Blanco and the agronomist responsible for the experimental farm in the Rabanales Campus (University of Córdoba), Francisco Márquez, have carried out a demonstration of machinery for conservation agriculture and equipment regulation.