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EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) Network
News article11 October 2022

Improving the quality and productivity of fig trees

Modernisation of techniques applied and efficient use of the soil - Inspirational ideas

This inspirational idea is also available in a Slovak version. Translation courtesy of the National Rural Network Slovakia. Read more EIP-AGRI inspirational ideas in Slovak on the NRN website.

Torres Novas (Portugal) is traditionally a fig-producing region thanks to its soil and climate which are perfectly adapted to two popular fig varieties in particular. However, Michele Rosa, a local fig producer, observed that production in the area was decreasing. So she decided to look into new production techniques, sustainability methods, efficient use of the soil as well as the economic advantages which could serve as an example for other farmers and revive the production of this traditional product.

Michele set up GoFigoProdução Operational Group in 2018, “We realised that there was a real lack of figs on the market, but at the same time huge areas of abandoned or poorly profitable trees.” Torres Novas is known for the Figo Preto de Torres Novas and the Pingo de Mel varieties, both of which are interesting from an economic point of view. Figo Preto de Torres Novas is unique and very well adapted to the regional conditions and Pingo de Mel is very much in demand on the market. Michele continues: “Certain cultivation techniques such as fertilisation and pruning are empirically carried out by fig growers, but it can be argued that there is still room for improvement. So we wanted to compare these techniques with alternatives which might be more advisable, and demonstrate this to local producers.” The Operational Group teamed up with research organisations and its aim was to increase the productivity of the orchards and improve the quality of the fruit. The Operational Group specifically focused on sustainable management methods to protect and improve the soil.

The partners included agricultural companies, a research institute, a university, a technology centre and an NGO which promotes local products. Michele explains “Without a doubt, the collaboration of all partners was very important. The support of research organisations helps to move forward in the development of these varieties as there is still a lot to learn, but the practical experience of the other partners provides essential knowledge from the field. There is no point in having information if you do not know what is happening on the ground, nor does it make sense to walk on the ground without having a deeper knowledge of what can be done.”

3 people presenting in front of some fig trees

The Operational Group set up demonstration fields on which alternative cultivation practices were introduced and compared to usual practices. Over four years, the figs produced were analysed where parameters such as size and hardness of the fruit were evaluated and diameters of the trees. Soil and leaf composition analyses were also carried out to determine the amounts of minerals, such as potassium, iron, PH, etc.

The new techniques applied concentrate on 4 main areas:

  • Vegetation cover (soil maintenance) – traditional tillage with disc harrows was compared with vegetation cover through mechanical cuts. Results show an improvement in the quality of the figs and an increase in organic matter in the soil when the vegetation is cut mechanically.
  • Fertilisation – traditional fertilisation was compared with rational fertilisation based on soil and leaf analysis. The balanced fertilisation leads to greater size and quality of the figs as well as greater resistance of the skin, which facilitates the handling and transport. It also reduces costs.
  • Pruning – winter pruning was compared with pruning twice a year, in winter and summer. This results in a reduction of labour costs as the fig trees are smaller, simultaneously increasing safety and improving working conditions. Figs are fewer but bigger and higher quality.
  • Pests (specifically Ceratitis capitata) – Non-control of the pest (usual practice) compared to controlling them using traps. The result is an increase in production and quality.

The results of these pilot tests and analyses have been published and disseminated in a detailed ‘Good practices guide’. The partners also organised a seminar to present the results to a wider public.

The Operational Group will end in December 2022, but the project will continue to disseminate its results. For example, two farmers from Seville, Spain, who participated in the final seminar of the Operational Group, are very interested in using the methodology developed in the project. They have already visited Michele's farm several times and participated in training sessions. “We hope to support other farmers in this way in the future” says Michele, “We also hope to obtain a PGI and a PDO for the varieties tested in the project and we have a future idea for an Operational Group on the valorisation of the fig tree.”

“As part of the project, we also set up a group of producers, a limited company, called ‘GOFigo’. The main objective of this group is to commercialise the figs produced in the area, and to increase export. The producers sell fresh, dried and processed figs through the central company. All members must meet the production requirements (studied by the Operational Group): no till, pruning twice per year, etc., to ensure that the final product is sufficient in quality. For the moment, I am the only one who is already producing, the others have invested but have not yet entered into production, this is scheduled for 2024” – Michele explains.

We also asked Michele about the involvement of women in this Operational Group: “Interestingly, the representatives of the partners in this Operational Group are mostly women and most of the members of the GOFigo Producers Group are also women. It is very important to involve women in agricultural development/innovation projects. The resilience and persistence that characterise most women is vital. However, we are seeing that unfortunately often women still need to assert themselves to find their place in these projects.”

Project information

Contact: Michele Rosa – ROSAGRO: rosagrodoceterra@gmail.com

More information:

Operational Group page on EIP-AGRI database

Project website

Facebook of the project

Video from the seminar

Good practices guide(and other documentation)

Details

Publication date
11 October 2022
Focus
Innovation, knowledge exchange & EIP-AGRI