Argentina is notable for many things—be it for the most visited city in South America, Buenos Aires, for its exquisite native flora or for its sugar production. However, Argentina needs recognition for its agricultural innovations that are helping to eliminate food insecurity.
New Techniques to Combat Food Insecurity
Food insecurity is common in Argentina. In fact, 35.8% of the population suffered from food insecurity from 2018-2019. That number increased to 37% through 2020. However, farmers are tackling this issue through new farming practices to increase annual crop yields.
Argentina is a country of unique potential, a country with the capacity for strong eco-friendly and sustainable agricultural practices. While Argentina is susceptible to changing weather patterns and natural disasters, farmers are actively examining sustainable practices to reduce their carbon footprint and increase food production in the face of disaster.
Soil, which consists of decomposing plant materials, holds or “sequesters” carbon from the atmosphere. That is how the soil becomes enriched and food production increases. Soil sequestration creates cleaner air and benefits human health.
In colder climates, the soil can store carbon for longer durations, making the next harvest cycle yield greater crops. Additionally, perennial crops that live beyond a single year can store a greater amount of carbon in the soil. This method allows for deep roots to form and spread the carbon deeper into the soil. Farmers can seed cover plants such as beans and peas after they harvest the perennial plants. That promotes year-round soil sequestration.
Soil Sequestration Initiatives in Argentina
Currently, Grupo Avinea, the largest organic wine producer based in Argentina, has implemented soil sequestration practices. The company made the switch in 2022 because of the health benefits to its crops, along with the benefits of lowering carbon in the atmosphere. It is only one of the many companies which agreed to make the switch based on conversations held at the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), known as COP21 that took place in Paris in 2015. The COP21 initiative that Grupo Avinea adopted is “4 per 1000.” That refers to annually increasing soil carbon capture by 0.4%. The COP21 summit felt this “4 per 1000” is an amount that will substantively reduce the carbon in our atmosphere. Other companies that made the switch in Argentina include Bodega Argento and Otronia.
A second of Argentina’s agricultural innovations is the adoption of no-till farming. Tillage is the act of using machines to turn soil before seeding. For a long time, farmers considered tillage as the best practice for attaining large crop yields; however, farmers now recognize evidence that suggests that tillage has several downsides. These include causing the release of unnecessary into the atmosphere from the soil during tillage, harm to the microbes and insects that affect the health of the crops and tilling machines wasting immense amounts of fuel. Not to mention that tilled soil is susceptible to natural wind and water erosion. It also makes irrigation difficult, keeping water from seeping into the soil below.
Instead, now farmers are opting to till less. Around 80% of all Argentinian farmers have adopted no-till farming practices. This makes Argentina a world leader in no-till farming. Argentinian farmers use organic plant matter as soil toppers to prevent weeds that would take moisture from the soil that is intended for the crops. They also strategically use herbicides and insecticides. The Argentina Association of Direct Seeding (no-till) Producers researches and guides farmers in best practices for no-till technologies.
A third of Argentina’s agricultural innovations is “precision agriculture.” With precision agriculture, farmers use technologies to monitor and collect data about their soil and crops. It helps farmers accurately target what their crops need in order to flourish. These technologies include geospatial data analysis, cloud computing and machine learning. Precision agriculture can help eliminate over-watering and over-fertilizing, which will save farmers money and lowers the negative impact on the environment.
Currently, the leader in precision agriculture in Argentina is the Asociación de Cooperativas Argentinas (ACA), which continues to develop technology for farmers to increase their crop yields. ACA has worked with more than 50,000 farmers in Argentina. Farmers can share the data gathered from ACA’s data platform with each other. This strengthens the farming communities and advances healthy farming habits.
Argentina continues to expand its farmland with row crops, but it lacks waterways and irrigation networks to support its farms. In fact, only 7% or 5.6 million acres have proper irrigation networks. A lack of irrigation networks can lead to underwatering, overwatering and flooding. Of course, all of these situations are detrimental to crop yields. Farmers are currently hoping to increase irrigation networks by 28% and that will greatly affect the amount of viable food farmers produce each year. When this expansion occurs, it should revolutionize the crop yield, waste less water and save money.
The combination of soil sequestration, no-till farming, precision agriculture and increased irrigation networks should greatly strengthen Argentina’s food production and crop yields. Argentina’s agricultural innovations will also allow an increase in the country’s ability to export goods around the globe. By using these agricultural innovations in this multi-faceted and deliberate manner, Argentina is on a good path to the sustainability of its people and its land.
– Thomas LaPorte