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Brazil: Melon producers save water and restore their lands with Aqua-4D

by | Aug 22, 2018 | Case Study |


Melons are a big deal in Brazil, with production totalling 596,430 tons – up from 139,768 as recently as 2000 according to FAOSTAT (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations).

In some regions such as Rio Grande do Norte melon production is one of the most important economic activities, with huge export demand as well as ever-increasing domestic consumption[1].

It’s a success story not without its ups and downs, however. Melon crops in Brazil are prone to drought, with one large company reporting having to reduce production due to 6 years of water scarcity, having knock-on effects on exports.

Last year, the European distributor Levarht reported lower melon volumes, with up to 140 less containers being sent to Europe. However, such a slump was “not caused by drought, but by the high salinity of the water,”[2] with demand being filled by competitors from Spain.

In areas of the world where water is scarce, though, the use of saline water for irrigation is a common practice[3]. Indeed, the largest fruit producer in Brazil, Agricola Famosa, uses EC 3.0-6.0 saline water to irrigate their crops, which includes melons, papaya, banana, passion fruit, and more. Several years of salts accumulation in the soil decreased productivity and prevented them from achieving more than one cycle per year. They were faced with having to cease activity on these lands and move melon production to a new area. In the year 2014 they began their first validation study with the Aqua-4D system, treating a flow of 150m3/h (660 US GPM) on one plot of 24ha (60 acres) in order to reduce soil salinity and increase productivity.

The results were startling, but merely what growers all over the world have come to expect from the Aqua-4D system. Total production increased by between 7-17%, with better export quality and less rejected fruit.

What’s more, due to the system’s leaching effect, Agricola Famosa could return to 2 cycles per year on the same land. Indeed, after the first results emerged, CFO Richard Müller was moved to write an open letter of thanks (see here). 

Paulo Danta, Field Manager for the company’s melon crops, underlined the importance of water quality and its impact on production: “We started using this new technology with 24 hectares, and the productivity gains, decreases in fruit waste and better overall plant health were so significant that we expanded to 1000 hectares in the first phase. What we’re seeing here with this new technology is the possibility of better growth, quality, and health of melon crops.”

Aqua-4D works hand-in-hand in this way with customers around the world, conducting on-site validation studies proving the efficacy of the system.  For melon crops, the results have been positive across the board, from studies in countries including Tunisia, Italy, Spain, and Costa Rica.

Tunisia: A 2012 study at the Chott–Meriem Higher Institute of Agronomy looked at Citirex F1 melons in a greenhouse environment, testing specifically for resistance to nematode attacks, testing untreated water vs untreated water & nematicides vs Aqua-4D treated water.  It showed a 42% production increase, with nematode control more efficient than the chemical nematicides and reduced plant damage

Italy: A 2017 study in Lombardy looked at 145 melon plants over 21 days, with results showing a +23% increase in production weight on the final day of analysis for plants which had been irrigated with Aqua-4D treated water

Spain: At a watermelon grower in Spain, results from 2016 showed a +7.6% increase for commercial production in crops treated by the Aqua-4D system, compared with the control. Recently in June 2018 in the south of Spain, the numbers and weights of melons irrigated with Aqua-4D were compared with control melons in otherwise equal circumstances, with early results showing a production increase of 32.6%

Costa Rica: Also in mid-2018, a large melon grower looked specifically at the efficacy of the system for nematode resistance. Results showed up to a 94% decrease in nematode populations around the melon plants, as well as significant improvements in fruit quality and reject rates.

The results for melons are in line with those for a whole variety of other crops. Agronomist Jefferson Dantas works with papaya crops and reported that germination took place within 55 days, 10 days less than normal, with larger and more solid trunks resulting in increased fruit harvest: “Additionally, we saved manpower because we didn’t need to unclog drippers or take out organic deposits, and we finally found a solution to our salinization problem; today we are equipping 100% of our papaya crops with Aqua-4D.”

Meanwhile, in a recent interview at this year’s Hortitec event, Joao Suss, Managing Director of Araunah Group, recently reported their success in using the system with banana, coffee and tomato crops, expressing that growers and producers in Brazil are becoming increasingly interested in how the Aqua-4D system can boost their competitive advantages.[1]

Whether it’s melons in Brazil, vertical farms in Holland, flowers in Vietnam, or almonds in California, growers on almost every continent have been realizing the competitive advantage and huge benefits – quantifiable and proven – that irrigation with the Aqua-4D system gives them.

[1] Global Chain of Melon Production: http://www.global-labour-university.org/fileadmin/GLU_conference_2016/papers/C1/Belik.pdf

[2] “Brazilian melon season started with lower volumes”: http://www.freshplaza.com/article/182005/Brazilian-melon-season-started-with-lower-volumes

[3] “Modelling sustainable salt water management under deficit irrigation conditions for melon in Spain and Brazil”: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25296534

[4] “Interview: João Suss (Araunah Tech) at Hortitec 2018”: https://blog.aqua-4d.com/araunah-hortitec/

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