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Lettuce - Spain, Primaflor

This case study shows how lettuce production in an area of low rainfall can be undertaken using water in an efficient and precise manner, combined with targeting application of fertilisers and plant protection products to improve effectiveness and protect the natural environment.

Primaflor produces lettuce in an area of low rainfall using water in an efficient and precise manner, combined with targeting application of fertilisers and plant protection products to improve effectiveness and protect the natural environment. This case study highlights good practice in water use, agrochemical and fertiliser use and food safety.

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Key areas of good practice
Assurance/certification:

The farm produces the lettuce under the requirements of the GlobalGAP Assurance Scheme. This ensures that practices such as food safety/quality, good environmental management, record keeping and worker welfare are all independently audited and verified.

The farm is also accredited under SA8000, an international standard for improving working conditions.

Agrotechnology:

The farm uses fertigation (the application of fertilisers or other water soluble products through an irrigation system), which provides precise application and reduces the overall amount of chemicals applied compared to dry application.

Primaflor uses GPS satellite guidance systems to allow field shape and slope to be factored into field preparation. The main objective is to optimise the usable field area and improve the efficiency of cultivation, planting, irrigation and harvesting

The farm now uses mechanised planting, weeding and harvesting, this has helped the business reduce staff numbers by 32%.

Pheromone and sticky traps capture pest species and if threshold levels are exceeded then the farm’s technician can approve the use of specific plant protection products. The weather station predicts conditions which are likely to increase the risk of disease/pest incidence, so the use of plant protection products can be accurately targeted.

Crop initiatives:

Biological repellents (garlic extract and neem oil) are used to control certain target pest species.

A specialist agronomist is employed by the farm to ensure accurate and timely diagnosis of pests.

The farm works with plant protection product companies to more effectively develop pest and disease control strategies.

Product quality:

A programme of plant breeding in conjunction with seed suppliers sees over 300 different varieties planted every week during the growing season, with the objectives of improving pest/ disease resistance and growth in future generations.

Primaflor participates in Veg–i–Trade, a project that seeks to assess the impact of anticipated climate change and globalisation on the safety issues concerning fresh produce and derived food products. Primaflor has participated in research on irrigation doses to evaluate its influence on product shelf life and quality for iceberg lettuce and romaine.

Soil health:

All planting areas are tested annually for nutrients which prevents over application. Targeted fertiliser applications plans are implemented which maximises yields whilst minimising nutrient losses.

Water:

Soil meters monitor moisture levels at four zones within soil structure, allowing for accurate assessment of irrigation undertaken and planned, verses actual crop requirements.

Sub-surface drip irrigation is used, an irrigation method which minimizes the use of water by allowing it to drip slowly to the root zone of plants. It is estimated to be 25% more efficient than other methods of irrigation.

A pressure compensated drip irrigation system is in use which, although more expensive than the conventional drippers, has far greater efficiency and accuracy.

A weather station on the farm predicts likely rainfall events and calculates soil evaporation rates, ultimately helping improve irrigation/ water efficiency.

A weather station on the farm predicts likely rainfall events and calculates soil evaporation rates, ultimately helping improve irrigation/ water efficiency.

All water sources have two microbial tests undertaken annually to ensure purity levels are met.

Biodiversity:

To date, around 500 native trees have been planted including Olive, Palm, Carob tree.