María del Carmen Salas on biofertigation in Peru: "I think the main limitation is having nearby organic sources"

The academic was part of the International Blueberry Seminar in Trujillo, where she spoke about the importance of salinity control in soilless crops.

Soilless cultivation is an increasingly popular option, since it allows you to implement a blueberry crop on land that is not normally suitable for these plants. By using containers, producers have the benefit of avoiding soil diseases, increasing the density of the plantation, increasing the yield and earliness of the harvest, in addition to allowing the nutritional demand of the plants to be adapted according to their phenological state.

After the increase in this type of cultivation in Peru, Blueberries Consulting invited María del Carmen Salas, doctor and agricultural engineer from the University of Almería, the same institution where she works as a professor of doctorate, to the last Trujillo 2022 International Blueberry Seminar, dedicating herself to the investigation of hydroponics techniques and cultivation without soil. 

With the price of fertilizers high after the economic effects of the pandemic and Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the use of organic matter to fertilize seems to be a cheaper, more viable and popular option among consumers, who are increasingly demanding more sustainable products.

For this reason, the doctor presented during the afternoon of the first day of the event, the topic "Biofertigation in blueberries and control of salinity in pots" before a packed conference room. For almost an hour, she held the attention of the producers present, recounting the consequences of a deficient level of salinity in the pots and the importance of the ionic ratio for the nutrition of the plant, and consequently, the quality of its fruits.

In an interview with Blueberries Consulting, the academic commented on the difficulties of poorly regulated salinity, the possibilities of implementing biofertigation in Peru and its differences with the application of conventional fertilizers.

How does an abnormal range of salinity in their substrate affect the growth of blueberry plants and their productive potential? How does it affect the post-harvest life of the fruit?

The blueberry, especially due to its sensitivity to salinity, when we get out of the optimal range, it will affect growth, water consumption, mineral absorption and in the end it has a direct consequence on the quality of the fruit, with which in the postharvest consequences are inevitable. And not only because salinity is a problem to consume water, because of the osmotic potential, but also because it generates an imbalance of ions within the nutrient solution and the plant can become deficient in certain elements promoted by that imbalance that it is provided through poor management of biofertigation.

Given the high costs of fertilizers after Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the economic effects of the pandemic, can synthetic or mineral fertilizers be replaced through biofertigation?

Obviously the cost of production has increased a lot due to the use of fertilizers, most of which are actually produced outside of Europe. And in the end, the cost is quite difficult to assume for the producer and then for the final consumer, so the first benefit is really going to be, if we manage to implement bionutrients, to reduce that cost. And of course without forgetting the importance that it will have for the environment, by reducing the contribution of synthetic fertilizers and resorting to these natural resources, extracting all the potential that they have of nutrients, so that it is used by the plant and the environment; There are two clear benefits. And regarding the quality of the fruit, as long as we regulate it correctly, it will be the same, because the plant will have the nutrients it needs available in this type of biosolution. In other words, there will not be a limitation in production or quality.

With the climatic and geographical conditions of Peru, can biofertigation be carried out in the producing areas? Should any special care be taken?

I mainly believe that the limitation and consideration that must be taken, in the case of biofertigation, is to have nearby organic sources. In other words, we cannot implement it in a place that is tremendously far from the generation of that organic matter, because in the end it also becomes the same problem as mineral fertilizer. I think that it is the main limitation to have organic sources; composted or vermi composted, from plant remains or animal manure, so that they allow us to apply it optimally. And the fact that they are different climatologically, what leads us is to manage resources well, to know well the analysis of that bionutrient, of that biofertigation that I am going to apply, and manage it as we have managed mineral fertilizer up to now; through plant, drainage and drip analyzes to maintain optimal levels for the plant. Therefore, climate and geography should not affect how the application of biofertigation or synthetic or mineral fertilizers should be studied.

The outstanding academic will continue working together with Blueberries Consulting, participating as a teacher in the diploma course "Conventional production and soilless cultivation in blueberries: Use of substrates and fertigation", and in the International Expert Level course in "Irrigation and nutrition in blueberries: conventional production and cultivation without soil”, organized together with his alma mater, the University of Almería. Both programs will be online, and you must first complete the diploma, which is a requirement to advance to the higher academic degree of Expert Level. Registration will be open from August 1 through the platform Agricultural Seminars.

You can see the interview with Dr. María Carmen del Salas and other of our speakers from the Trujillo International Blueberry Seminar on our YouTube channel, BlueberriesTV. 

By Catalina Pérez Ruiz - Blueberries Consulting.

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