Tuesday, July 5

The haze of March ‘given’ the field fertilizer worth 11.84 million

During March practically the entire Peninsula could see how the sky was covered with a reddish blanket and everything, absolutely everything, was covered by a dense layer of dust. Between the 16th and 18th of that month, the Celia storm left 6.4 grams of particles for every square meter, according to data from the WMO Barcelona Dust Regional Center.

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With the cloudy atmosphere (with all that this entails), those days the air quality left Spain as the most polluted country in the world. This produced negative and positive effects in the field.

The bad consequence was recorded in those crops that were already in the process of growth. For the producers of vegetables and citrus in the Mediterranean areas, mainly in Granada, Almería, Murcia, Alicante and Valencia, the mixture of rain and dust condemned the production of watermelon, melon, lettuce, pepper, courgette, tomato, broccoli, cherry or tangerine, among others. For example, in the Almeria orchard, the estimates of the agricultural organization Asaja spoke of a reduction of almost 25% for watermelons or close to 50% for fast-growing vegetables, such as courgette. And it is that the haze kills the plants by suffocation.

The other consequence, the positive one, which can be called a ‘gift’, is that the composition of this haze from the Sahara brought with it useful substances, such as calcium, nitrates or phosphates, which have served as fertilizers for the fields. According to a study carried out by the Burgos company Agrae Solutionsthe dust deposited by the “extraordinary episode” has left nutrients worth 11.83 million euros in the soil, according to Jorge Miñón Martínez, technical director of the company.

With the prices of fertilizers on the rise, for example, calcium ammonium nitrate exceeds 600 euros per ton or potash, 730 euros, this punctual effect -which affects differently each year- has been a surprise, since as The engineer has testified: “it is something extraordinary that it has also reached the north of Spain and even more so with these concentrations”.

In the north the haze is not usually lavish and less noticeable in the countryside, something that they do know in the Canary Islands, where this phenomenon is more noticeable, although also with detrimental effects.

The quantities found, according to the samples studied in the farmland of the provinces of Burgos and Palencia, are around 64 kilos per hectare. An amount that, although appreciated, is not enough to meet the needs of the plantations. In the case of Castilla y León, the haze would have contributed to enriching the land with about 1.7 million fertilizing substances.

This “natural contribution”, if counted in large areas, is very striking. In the 23,900,000 hectares of cultivated area in Spain or in the 3,4198,994 in Castilla y León, millionaire figures are given, but transferred to the economic level of the farmer, in much smaller extensions, it means “rather little”, although it’s welcome.

To get used to the idea, as Miñón Martínez explains, it’s like going to a restaurant and being offered a tapa. “It doesn’t fill you up, but it adds up, that’s not why you’re going to stop eating. In the same way in the agricultural field it is an unexpected ‘snack’”.

But do not think that haze is the solution to all problems, not even that it can be used for some commercial purpose. “It would not be profitable for us, it is not economically interesting. It is a soil that comes from Africa and that, furthermore, in Spain we have them with better components”, as Miñón Martínez has asserted.

Although the amounts of Saharawi dust found are striking, the technical director of Agrae has indicated that in no way “they are substitutes for traditional fertilizers”, since the soils need much more input, therefore, it is not reflected in the farmer’s pocket. . Where they are “more interesting agronomically” is in how they help soils in certain areas, such as land composed of sand, since the contribution of the haze helps to fix substances such as calcium.

To get an idea of ​​the enormous amount of haze deposits, Agrae has calculated the tons of dust that should be fixed in the field to replace fertilizers. In one hectare of wheat, supplying nitrogen would require 57 tons (the composition was 0.134 kilograms per hectare of this component and this crop needs 120 kilos) or 2,264 tons to do the same with phosphorus, since, for every hectare only 0.001 kilos of this component were found and this cereal needs 48 kilograms of this nutrient to develop. In short, that Spain would have to become a desert to reach such figures.