The details of this story began in 2016. An upcoming post, written at about the same time in 2017, will illustrate the need to have patience, good luck, and the long view that farmers across the world have come to understand as facts of life.
January 11, 2016
The learning curve on a small farm can be steep and filled with surprises. Lesson number one is that agronomists, the people with training and experience, are not always right.
The orange trees in the northeast sector have not produced the quantity and quality of oranges anticipated.
The trees in this section had grown so large that a tractor could not drive down the rows between them, making it difficult to apply insecticides and then to harvest the oranges. The oranges, crowded out by the unwanted brush, were slower to ripen because sunlight could not penetrate the overgrown area, were not as good quality as those in other parts of the property and therefore not a good return on investment.
To correct the situation, an agronomist recommended that the trees in 22 rows affected be chopped down to within a foot of the ground and a new type of orange tree grafted on top.
Farm crew Juan Vila and Luis are clearing the area of downed trees, back breaking work since the wood has dried, become very hard and the branches have nasty two inch thorns. Juan Vila cuts away large branches and piles them on the high rise of ground the trees are planted on.
Ricardo has made arrangements for someone to remove the wood. In Chile, there is always a way to re-purpose material.Smaller brush cut away from the trees will be tossed into the rows between the trees and cleared away.
The moment of truth for the brush comes when José Pablo drags a seriously noisy and heavy machine called a triturador through them. The machine has powerful blades that shred everything in the rows. After three passes, down each row, it will have shredded the piles into bits. The shredded debris from the weeds will be several inches thick and act as mulch thick enough prevent new weeds from growing. It will take three seasons for the grafts on the trees to produce - if everything goes according to plan.
After clearing 5 rows, it is clear to Ricardo that it take months to cut down then add grafts to remaining 17 rows in the section. He makes a Plan B. He will have his crew cut back the overgrowth in the remaining rows to allow the tractor to squeeze through and hope they produce enough oranges to be profitable.
At least, that’s the plan. Mother Nature and other unpredictable forces may alter the reality. I just returned in 2017 to see how the plan worked. Or didn't.
Stay tuned. Report coming in a few days.
The triturador shreds everything in its path.
You wouldn't want to use this machine to mow your lawn!
Photos and videos by Paul A. Tamburello, Jr.ispai