In Italy the average size of farms is about 8 hectares. Such a size does not allow large investments and often does not guarantee to the farmer an adequate income.
The current climate change, with huge fluctuations of meteoric events and increasingly extreme events, such as the drought of 2017 in the Mediterranean areas, increases the farmers’ uncertainties. To make sure that the farm is ready to face possible considerable losses of production in certain sectors, it is necessary to direct the agricultural activity towards the diversification of production.
Silvopastoral systems can represent the solution to develop a multipurpose farm that would allow to obtain an adequate and guaranteed income, despite the unpredictability of the productive seasons. Within the Italian RAIN of the AFINET project, a synergistic cooperation was developed between three farms in the Orvieto area:
- Danilo Basili farm, specialized in sheep breeding and milk processing;
- Sartago farm, specialized in vineyard management and in the production of wine;
- Il Pogliano farm, specialized in the management of olive groves to obtain extra-virgin olive oil.
On the left the vineyard of Sartago farm and on the right the olive orchard of Il Pogliano farm.
The silvopastoral systems with trees and sheep breeding allow to obtain a great efficiency in the management of weeds without resorting to weeding and guarantee a good organic fertilization of the soil. On the other hand, both sheep breeding and the management of olive groves and vineyards require great training and experience for their agronomic and technical management.
The three companies have created a collaborative project that provides benefits to everyone:
- the farmer has a greater grazing area, having the opportunity to reduce the pressure he exerted on his pastures, even though he could also increase the number of cattle;
- in lands with trees it is possible to obtain a sustainable management of the weeds and an improvement of the quality and quantity of the organic matter in the soil.
Sucker control in the olive grove is particularly important. The removal of these vegetative tissues can take a long time and if it is done mechanically with shorter times, it can cause wounds at the base of the plants that can then be the entrance of pathogens. The sheep make a great selection without causing damage to the plant and while they do, they fertilize in the right place, under the canopy but at a certain distance from the olive tree stem.
| Olive trees in the Danilo Basili farm: the trees have an irregular design but offer a good refuge from the sun during summer.
The decreased use of chemical inputs and the lower emissions into the atmosphere because of the reduction of cultural operations to be carried out in the orchards are the main benefits of such systems. There are also economic benefits through the reduction of management costs and for the payment that is obtained with the so-called sales contracts for "standing grass". For the shepherd, on the other hand, the costs for the purchase of hay are reduced and production increases in terms of quality and quantity.
Grazing in the two nearby farms with olive trees and vineyards will be interrupted from April/May to October: in the vineyard to avoid damage to the vegetation, then up to the grape harvest; in the olive grove to allow the cultivation of long flowering legumes that will be used both for the bees that the farm has, and for haymaking.
In the area some other farmers are thinking of requesting the "service" of the sheep and this makes us think positively: grazing as a means of sustainable management!!
|Surface extension and geographical distribution of the crops of the three farms|