OUR STRATEGIC PROJECTS

THREE PROPOSALS FOR ITALIAN HILL AND MOUNTAIN AGRICULTURE

In celebrating the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Nuovo Cilento Cooperative, we took stock of three projects we are working on:

1) technological innovation for hill and mountain soils (76% of total Italian soil, 85% of total soil in Campania);

2) the life of hill and mountain soils: regenerative organic agriculture, composting of production waste, better management of slopes through new and ancient cultivation practices;

3) the place for sheep farming in ecological corridors also with the use of the “prescribed fire”.

We must accelerate.

1) Technological innovation for hill and mountain land

The Italian agro-mechanical industry invoices 70% abroad and 30% in our plains, neglecting the hills and mountains for years.

The extremely stable and safe radio-controlled tractors were invented to clean the embankments of highways. Nothing more than this was at the last edition of EIMA in Bologna. A long and patient work (conducted in particular by a retired agronomist from the Campania Region) with two companies, the Energreen of Vicenza and the Bosco of Piacenza allowed for the first time to equip them with vibrators for the olive harvest, which is now planned to further improve and adapt to the size of our plants. The tests carried out in January 2019 in San Mauro Cilento gave exciting results.

It also benefited from an inexpensive intervention of the Umbria Region, who put on the same machines a pruner suitable for the size of the Umbrian olive trees. Now we are planning an adaptation of the pruner to the size of our plants.

However, there is a clear feeling that the solutions are there, but they do not see each other due to the absence of a true policy for the Italian hills and mountains, of a direction. In the complex and arduous research work we have defined a “Cilento package” of the radio-controlled tractors and the tools to be connected. It is important that these machines with a very low center of gravity require dedicated tools and this entails a strain of the manufacturing companies to adapt. We need the driving force of a new agricultural policy for the hills and the mountains.

2) The life of hill and mountain soils

Here there is another reflection to be done urgently: how and with what mechanical means can we intervene on the slopes of the Italian hills and mountains?

The reasoning still remains open. If we try to take stock of this situation, the impoverishment from which these lands suffer from very serious mistakes made in recent years stands out. These are numerous, but some are to be addressed with the utmost urgency.

First of all, the tools used, the deep plowing and their direction perpendicular to the slope, the uncovered land and the disposal of the legumes are causing enormous damage.

Radio-controlled tractors could represent a process reversal, as they can plow transversely to the slopes, exactly as oxen did. Traditional plows and spades could be replaced by disc plows, rotary harrows, etc …

Furthermore, interventions on sloping ground should be very limited, just as thin shredding should be overcome with methods that prevent oxidation of the carbon of the chopped plants and attract the grass for the formation of a litter, which protects the soil from erosion and makes it more porous and able to absorb the washing action of the rains. Hardening, waterproofing of the land are certainly the basis of many hydrogeological disasters, including that of Benevento.

We have still reflected on the life of the soil, through courses, realization of preparations and experiments with Regenerative Organic Agriculture.

We have achieved extraordinary results, unique in the world, in the composting of olive pomace. Now we should move to a more extensive use, engineering the composting process. This takes on at least a national significance, given the results of the analyzes and chromatography and the problems associated with disposal.

3) Pastoralism

Agriculture without breeding cannot exist: it is so from the Neolithic, when both were born. A series of unfortunate laws and regulations have killed a sector that is vital for the national economy and especially in inland areas, such as sheep farming.

We have experimented the prescribed fire, together with the Cilento Park and the University of Naples, for the increase in biodiversity and for pastoralism with excellent but limited results, because there is no national and regional law. Meanwhile, shepherds cannot use the land covered by the fire. Yet since the Neolithic period, together with agricultural areas, woods, villages, in an ecological corridor there has always been an area dedicated to grazing, which the shepherds improved with a three-year winter fire, excellent for biodiversity, as the studies of the University of Naples and the experiences of Portugal, Spain, Greece have shown. Portuguese engineers called from the Park have intervened to teach how to use prescribed fire, and the technique of fire and counter fire with flamethrowers, well known to shepherds of all ages.

Unfortunately there is no national and regional legislation (Piedmont has one), to extend a successful experiment.

In addition, other regulations such as those on slaughtering, with prohibitive costs, are fierce against the shepherds. Could it be avoided with less bureaucratically suffocating and exorbitant rules on small slaughter?

And again, goats need temporary night shelters in the mountains. The forestry is keen to dismantle even simple temporary or straw tents or huts. This becomes even more oppressive in Zone 1 of the Park, where people tend to forget that the historical shape of those woods was also given by animals, the absence of which exposes those areas to degradation and fire danger.

Let’s start a national plan for the Italian hills and mountains

1) land regeneration (destroyed by wrong agricultural practices),

2) innovative mechanization to reduce costs and to improve safety at work,

3) the revival of pastoralism.