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Sustainable agriculture: everything starts from the soil

Sustainable agriculture in Italy: let's start from here

It seems like a writing by a current philosopher, but it is the work of Seneca, 4th century BC

“You live as if you always have to live, you never think about your fragility, you don't want to consider how much of your time has already passed. Throw away time as if you were drawing it from an inexhaustible source."

It is impossible to blame him, and Senator Virginia La Mura must have thought exactly of this extract when she brought a bill to the commission for the protection of the soil and subsoil.

There is no point in denying that the Planet is sending clear and palpable signals to the human race. It is necessary to choose whether:

  • ignore them and become saddened by natural tragedies
  • try to remedy it and change course.

Soil is a natural resource that could, or rather let's eliminate the conditional, not be eternal, therefore we need to intervene and try to reduce pollution and mismanagement.

Human beings and sustainable agriculture

From the perspective of attention to resource waste, it is necessary to consider - also - the soil element from which we obtain fruit and vegetables. We can, for example, gather social interest and try to direct attention towards renewable energies which represent a valid solution to be used in conjunction with other tools.

The soil, although it can be understood differently, is not inexhaustible and its regeneration is subjected to a very long process, unlike the Earth's geothermal energy which is a renewable energy (see what is done with agrivoltaics). Turning from one energy to another is already a first step that can be implemented by man.

The inconsistent use of water, the abuse of chemical substances, the pouring of liquids into the soil, these are just some actions that should be regulated in such a way as to increase respect for the soil which can be used but not abused.

The bill for sustainable cultivation

Having highlighted the problem, the senator chose to define a bill to increase soil protection and rehabilitation measures through the writing: "European Soil Strategy 2030" which imposes medium-long term objectives intended to resolve various problems: contrast to desertification and soil improvement. The bill has incorporated various bodies and researchers who also place emphasis on the agri-food industry and in particular on the mechanisms for using raw materials in the agrivoltaic world.

The commitment to eco-sustainability is the starting point for defining different working methods that educate in the responsible use of raw materials, including water and the water footprint that comes into play in the agricultural sector. Education is therefore the key to making up for multiple shortcomings and properly instructing the various production chains.

The proposal states that human health is directly related to what comes to the table, and following the chain we arrive at crops that derive from the soil, which is why growing on healthy soil is so important.

Soil and sustainable agriculture

The various agricultural companies present in Italy highlight various problems related to the supply of raw materials, among these there is the necessary attention to be paid to the soil. The numbers speak for themselves, in Italy soil erosion is double compared to the rest of Europe and, annually, the amount of soil consumed is equal to 1.8 tonnes per hectare.

This death is determined by the organic carbon present in the soil which is less than 1%, the factor combined with erosion leads to desertification and the reduction of arable land. In addition to the reduction of the land, there is a poorer product obtained and, due to the law of competition, there is a tendency to bring "better" foreign products to the table with the result that the Italian farmer, in addition to producing poor food, risks to throw it away as unsold goods.

One - of many - solutions: rotation and mapping

The European Union through the PAC outlines two solutions that can be applied immediately. In this way the soil regains fertility and can start producing healthy, good foods to place on the market in a concrete way.

Reduced tillage and crop rotation

The farmer can start now with conservative operations, i.e. leaving plant biomass on the ground and avoiding inverting the clods so as to cause as little disturbance as possible to the microorganisms that regulate fertility.

However, it is necessary to change one's concept of agriculture and implement two fundamental rules of the procedure:

  • keep the soil covered by using cover crops, bringing crop residues to the surface
  • activate a broad crop rotation, so as to also manage and control weeds

Soil mapping and prescriptions

The other aspect that is desirable and can be activated in the short term is the digitalisation of agricultural systems. Using computer systems it is possible to collect data, analyze it and structure sentient sowing: technology offers seeds, fertilizers, agrochemicals and water at the right time and in the right quantity. Data mapping is the direct consequence in order to form a sort of history and achieve increasingly precise agriculture.

Regenerative agriculture

The proposed law therefore becomes a perfect starting point for activating regenerative agriculture which, although it is still in its infancy in Italy, has already made it possible to highlight many positive points and excellent results. The farmer's income becomes a direct consequence of the entire process which, although it appears highly wasteful, becomes in the medium and long term, the perfect method for acting without polluting.