SAN PEDRO, Bolivia – Crop rotation, soil protection and variable-rate fertilization are the characteristics of the work of Ener Sanchez Flumignan, a Brazilian who settled in Bolivia 21 years ago and has been developing ways to make his adopted country’s tropical crops sustainable.
Sanchez, now a Bolivian citizen, owns 2,500 hectares (about 6,250 acres) in the municipality of San Pedro in eastern Santa Cruz province, and over the years he has found ways to increase his production of corn, sugar cane, wheat, soybeans and sorghum, among other crops.
In comments to EFE during a visit to that region sponsored by the Bolivian Foreign Trade Institute (IBCE), Sanchez said that one of his maxims is raising crops “in the most sustainable way possible.”
In that regard, he noted that since he came to Bolivia in 1997 he has been applying direct planting – that is, planting new crops over the remains of earlier harvests without using a plow or removing the topsoil, a useful technique for maintaining moisture in the soil.
In addition, the crop rotation method is ideal for use in tropical regions where the soil remains active all year and the growing season is not interrupted by the winter months, as in more temperate areas.
“We’re active all year, and so the first thing to think about is how to protect the soil, whether by covering it or with crops ... You can’t leave the soil bare,” he said.
Crop rotation allows farmers in Bolivia’s tropical region to have two crop cycles per year, the first one in summer being devoted to soybeans and the second in winter, when farmers can opt for wheat, sorghum, sugar cane, sunflowers and/or corn.
Using this method, Sanchez said, the soil moisture can be protected and each plant can capture the nutrients it needs to grow properly.
An agronomist by profession, Sanchez came to Bolivia with his wife and they decided to become farmers in Santa Cruz.
He said that Bolivia’s tropical region is fertile but it presents other problems such as heavy rains, drought and crop diseases.
Sanchez uses “satellite work” to determine the productivity of different parts of his land so that he can use just the right amount of fertilizer in each spot for maximum output and minimum environmental harm.