The Direct Seeding of Vegetables System (DSVS) is a transition proposal for all family farming instances dependent on inputs external to the property, meant to provide cleaner, balanced, and autonomous systems. In its technical-scientific axis it has the promotion of health to the plants as a fundamental principle. It respects the basic elements of the Direct Seeding System: targeted inversion of soil; diversification of species by crop rotation; and permanent soil coverage. In addition to the scientific approach in its political-pedagogical aspect , DSVS is a productive theme that enables the mobilization, education, organization and articulation between family farmers and their organizations and public institutions committed to agro-ecological rural development. The DSVS experiences extend across all regions of the State of Santa Catarina, contemplate over 35 municipalities and benefit approximately 1,200 farmers. The total DSVS area planted in the State exceeds 3,000 ha. 

 

Among DSVS's structuring and quantitative results stand out: the 35% decrease  in losses due to production and quality issues; increase in quality and life span of at least 10 t M. S./ha- 1 through fitomass of cover crops maintained on the soil's surface and subsequently incorporated by macro and microfauna activities; increase in the infiltration of water into the soil eliminating problems with erosion and reducing the use of water for irrigation in roughly 80%; reduction of production costs ranging from 50% to 100% without decrease in productivity; reduction, and in many cultures elimination, of the use of chemicals in cultivation; a substantial increase in income for the families involved in the process, in many cases exceeding 100%. 

  

A - General Information

 

BEGGINING: March 1998

COMPLETION: In progress 

EXECUTING ENTITY: Company of Agricultural Research and Rural Extension of Santa Catarina - EPAGRI

PARTNERS: Federal University of Santa Catarina (UFSC) and State University of Santa Catarina (UDESC)

PRESENTED BY: Marcelo Zanella

RESOURCES: Own and third-party

VALUE RANGE: Up to US$5,000.00 

CATEGORY: Project

MAIN THEMATIC AREA: Agriculture

KEYWORDS: SPDH; Direct Seeding of Vegetable Seeds; agro-ecological transition; plant health promotion; food security and nutrition; socio-productive inclusion; environmental preservation.

TARGET AUDIENCE: The main beneficiaries are family farmers; technicians, rural and research extensions of Epagri and Embrapa (EMBRAPA/CNPH); and teachers and students from the partner universities (UFSC/CCA/Rural Eng. Dep., UDESC/CAV) Municipal Agriculture Secretariats and farming organizations.

LOCATION: Rural Area

GEOGRAPHIC COVERAGE: State

MUNICIPALITIES: The experiences extend across the various regions of the Santa Catarina state, from the Coast (Águas Mornas, São Pedro de Alcantara, Antonio Carlos, Major Gercino, Anitápolis and Angelina), passing through the mountainous region (Campos Novos, Curitibanos), the southern region (Sombrio, Gravatal, Jaguaruna, Orleans, Urussanga, Criciúma, Pedras Grandes, Treze de Maio, Morro da Fumaça, São João do Sul e Santa rosa do sul), Alto Vale do Rio Itajaí (Ituporanga, Alfredo Wagner, Laurentino, Atalanta, Imbuia, Leoberto Leal and Aurora), the western (Chapecó, Seara, Planalto Alegre, Guatambú), and the far western region (São Miguel Oeste, Bandeirante, Descanso).

SPECIFIC AREA OF IMPLEMENTATION: Rural communities and producers of vegetables in the conventional, organic, and agro-ecological systems located in all regions of the state, in areas with different topographies and different economic and cultural conditions.

 

B - Description of the practice

 

1- BACKGROUND

The evolution of the set of practices recommended in the conventional system of production was oriented by productivity and profitability at any cost. This system of production remains rooted in the vegetable sowing properties of Santa Catarina, its technical axis is: monoculture associated with the excessive handling of the soil; indiscriminate usage of chemical fertilizers and pesticides; and inadequate management of the soil, water and plants. Over the years, the repetition of such practices has resulted in degradation and loss of soil, reduction in food quality, reduced quality of life, contamination of natural resources and increase in debts owed by the farmers to financial agencies and bigger producers. This used to be (and still is in many cases) the reality of vegetable producing properties in the state of Santa Catarina.

Considering these difficulties, a group of experts composed by Epagri researchers and extensionists and dissatisfied farmers, decided to study and research solutions that could revert this situation. The first DSVS experiments were made in the year of 1998 at the Experimental Station of Epagri in Caçador-SC. At that time, the farmers had two crops of tomatoes with production costs greater than the revenue from the sales. The unsatisfactory economic, social, and environmental conditions encouraged the possibility of pursuing another path for development.

DSVS emerged as an intervention proposal able to respond to the situation described with the reduction of social, economic and environmental costs for the plantations and encourage the farmers’ protagonism. The promising results on the tomato crops sparked the interest of producers and researchers from other cultures. And so the research and application of the practice spread throughout the state in the following crops: onion, chayote, watermelon, squash, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, among others.

  

2- GENERAL OBJECTIVE

The DSVS has the main goal of allowing for the transition from conventional farming to agro-ecology through the collective construction and consolidation of a path for the production of clean food, promotion of human health, provision of autonomy to rural families, respect for the environment, and promotion of sustainable rural development..

Specific Objectives: 

  • Promoting the health and comfort of the plants through the proper management of the system, observing the daily rates of nutrient absorption, crop rotation, annual addition of dry matter of over 10 t M. S./ha-1 in coverage, restricted inversion of soil,proper management of cultivated and spontaneous green fertilizers;
  • Reducing environmental impacts, cost of production and farmer dependency on factors external to the property;
  • Reducing until the eventual elimination of the use of pesticides and highly soluble fertilizers;
  • Reducing environmental and production costs at the same time maintaining and even increasing productivity;
  • Mobilizing, educating, organizing and articulating family farmers and their organizations with public institutions committed to the production of agrochemical-free food;
  • Providing for a greater autonomy of the workers in the collective construction process of the transition from conventional agriculture to an agroecology based rural development model.

 

3 - ADOPTED SOLUTION

The first works in DSVS were conducted at the Experimental Station of Caçador, in 1998, where the research was initiated in tomato and hybrid squash crops. In the first two years of research the technical basis of the system was organized. These concepts and practices entered the phase of maturity in 2000 at the Experimental Station of Ituporanga, through studies conducted with onion crops. They were then expanded to the Florianópolis region, where the largest production of vegetables in the State of Santa Catarina is concentrated. Several experiments were carried out in this region, mainly in Study Crops (SCr) involving the sowing of tomatoes, pepper, watermelon, hybrid squash, chayote, cabbage, kale, broccoli, onion, parsnip, lettuce, grape, and passion fruit.

The DSVS foundations are structured around two major pillars: political-pedagogical and technical-scientific. The political-pedagogical plan relates to the first activities. The beginning of the partnership between the researchers, academics, extensionists and farmers is established through an “employment contract”. This commitment is a strong link between the extensionist and the farmer formed through the scheduling of the year's activities, such as: dates for training and sharing of experiences; dates for the implementation of the Study Crops (SCr); technical assistance and rural extension visits (TARE); study trips and regional meetings; and lastly, the renewal of the contract for a following year. The constitution of the contract goes far beyond organizational factor, assuming the role of a political and pedagogical instrument that enables the mediation of technical knowledge, the carrying out of periodic assessments and the practical demonstration of the DSVS's progress and challenges. It is important to note that it is essential for the TARE agent to be a researcher.

The DSVS focuses on the promotion of the plant's health from a technical-scientific perspective and is linked to the political-pedagogical approach. Some guiding principles of the System are listed below:

 

  • Comfort of the Plant: minimization of stresses related to nutrition, salinity, water availability, temperature, light, pH, and quick oxygen diffusion; use of specific spatial arrangements related to the architecture of the root system, the size of the plant, and the amount of fruit, according to each culture's needs;
  • Nutrition of the plant: based on daily rates of nutrient absorption adapted to the environmental conditions, the nutritional reserves of the soil, and to signals indicated by the plant itself;
  • Green fertilization and crop rotation, using cultivated and spontaneous green fertilizers, with the management of the spontaneous fertilizers aiming for direct planting. In an advanced stage, crop rotation should incorporate the voisin system, featuring a crop-livestock integration;
  • Decrease and even elimination of the use of highly soluble fertilizers and agrochemicals;
  • Addition of more than 10 tons of fitomass (dry mass) per hectare per year to the rotation plans; soil inversion restricted to the planting lines or to the direct sowing area; stratified sampling of soil for chemical analysis and evolving monitoring of its attributes through the soil's culture profile;
  • Decrease in production and environmental costs, without prejudice to crop productivity;
  • Selection of seeds adapted to the environmental conditions of the region; 

There is a close practical relationship between the science and education axes specially manifested in the Study Crops (SCrs). The SCrs are spaces reserved in a property for the implementing of the DSVS. In it are conducted studies, production of vegetables, and socialization of knowledge, covering the commercial, scientific and pedagogical aspects. The implementing of a SCr and the incorporation of the first steps for the establishing the direct sowing of vegetables are obtained through: (1) stratified sampling of the soil for chemical analysis; (2) pH and nutrient correction; (3) identification and elimination of the soil's compacted layer; (4) systematization of the land if necessary, and; (5) sowing of the green fertilizers kit for later planting in straw. Other factors may be added to these initial practices, always taking into account the system's principles and the adoption of solutions that take into account the plant's health.

The SCrs are the first step for the development of a new food production method. They enable the families to accompany and participate in the process, expose their difficulties, fears and uncertainties and gain awareness as to the need for a redevelopment of the properties and of the production process. After evaluating the performance of the sowing of vegetables in the SCrs and verifying the potential for replication, the system is expanded to other cultivation spaces in the property. This process is facilitated by the construction of an integrated plan for the entire property, elaborated by the families and the technical team and taking into account productive, social, and environmental factors, always following the guiding principles already committed and practiced by the families in the SCrs. This plan defines, based on the commercial activities undertaken by the family, how the crops and cultures will be handled in the short, medium and long term, while respecting each individual's own rythm for understanding and adopting the technologies, until the entire property is conducted in the Direct Seeding of Vegetable Seeds system.

The DSVS is concerned with building a transition path from the conventional farming model to a model that produces food clean of pesticides, within the teaching approach of social inclusion. Therefore, the System has (through its technical bases, principles and perspectives) produced and adapted knowledge to the fields of olericulture, fruit-growing and grain production, in addition to the integrated and systemic managing of animals in the properties, also providing for the clean production of meat, milk and other animal origin products. 

 

4 - RESULTS ACHIEVED

The main results obtained through the Direct Seeding of Vegetables System (DSVS) were organized in structuring and specific results.

Structuring Results: 

  • Over 1,200 farmers are currently using DSVS in the State of Santa Catarina, covering an area of more than 3 thousand hectares;
  • The managing of the crops in the DSVS system improves the quality and uniformity of the plants, representing 35% less losses in production;
  • The DSVS research works guided the readjusting of the vegetable fertilizer reccomendation tables published in the Manual of Fertilization and Liming for the States of Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul, with a direct impact in the quantity of inputs used;
  • The use of cover crops promotes the protection of the soil surface against the impact of rain, reducing erosion and, consequently, the loss of organic matter and nutrients, decreasing incidence of spontaneous plants, and increasing water storage in the soil;
  • The increase in the quality of the soils cultivated in the DSVS is observed through the rapid increase of organic matter with the annual addition of at least 10 t M. S./ha-1 through the fitomass of cover crops on the soil's surface, quickly promoting the incorporation of a large amount of carbon into the soil;
  • The water infiltration rates can be up to three times higher if compared to the conventional system, eliminating problems with erosion and improving water availability to the plants;
  • Average reduction of 80% in the use of water for irrigation;
  • The permanent use of cultivated or spontaneous plants in the cultivation areas promotes a "folding" process in the soil, improving its physical conditions as well as the permanent cycling of nutrients;
  • The food produced in the DSVS arrives to the consumer with a higher biological value, positively impacting food security in the communities of Santa Catarina. 

Specific Results:

Tomato productive chain:- 
- 250 -250 growers adopting the system;
- Reduction of 70% in the use of machinery and implements;-
-Reduction of 60% in the use of fungicides;
- Reduction of 100% in the use of herbicides;
- Reduction of 60% in the use of chemical fertilisers;
- Maintenance of productivity if compared to the conventional system;
- Increase in income of roughly 50%.

Onion production:
- 700 producers adopting the system
;- Reduction of more than 70% in the use of machinery and implements;
- Reduction of 60% in the use of chemical fertilizers;
- Reduction of more than 40% in the use of fungicides;
- The bulb may be stored for an additional 60 days while maintaining its quality
.- Increase in income of roughly 30%. 

Chayote production:

- 180 producers adopting the system;
- Elimination of the use of herbicides - Elimination of the use of fungicides;
- Reduction of 80 % in the use of insecticides
- Reduction of 70% in use of chemical fertilisers
- In the properties of Anitápolis, there was an increase of six tonnes of carbon per hectare per year, with an evolution of the organic matter from 0.9% to 4.1% over a period of six years;
- After five years of DSVS implementation a 100% increase in productivity if compared to the conventional method was registered;
- Increase in income of roughly 100%.

Brassica Production (kale, cabbage, and broccoli):
- 120 producers adopting the system;
- Reduction of 60% in the use of fertilizers if compared to the conventional system
; - Reduction of 70% in the use of herbicides and insecticides
; - Elimination of the use of fungicides, bactericides and nematicides
; - An average increase of four tons of carbon per hectare per year was observed in the brocoli crops;
- Increase in income of roughly 100%.

Watermelon and squash production:
- 220 producers adopting the system;
- Reduction of 80% in use of herbicides;
- 50% reduction in the use of insecticides and 80% reduction in the use of fungicides;
- Average productivity increase of 30%;
- Increase in income in of roughly 40%.

 

  

5 - NECESSARY RESOURCES

The following resources are required for the implementation and continuity of the Direct Seeding of Vegetables Seeds System (DSVS):

 

Human Resources

  • A knowledgeable and motivated working group composed by researchers, extension workers and farming families interested in changing the current reality. Once the implementing area is identified, regular monitoring by a technician is necessary for implementing the new productive system in 1ha.

Material resources

  • Like the human resources, material resources may vary according to the conditions of the area and the level of technical knowledge about the region's reality;
  • Technical-scientific support: laboratory logistical support for soil and plant tissue analyses, empirical and scientific knowledge regarding the local ecology and the appropriate flora and fauna management for the specific ecosystem of the areas housing crops of economic interest;
  • For field work: equipment and machines adapted to direct planting in dense straw. If necessary, acquisition of seeds of adapted and /or creole/native cover crops.

 

6 - TRANSFER

 

The first DSVS experiments were made in the year of 1998 at the Experimental Station of Epagri in Caçador-SC. In the year of 2001 five crops were installed for observation also in the municipality of Caçador. The positive results, allied to the inneficiency of the conventional system arose the interest of local producers. Through the participative construction methodology, the farmers themselves started to train other farmers. In this process, the Study Crops are reference units, and the evaluations and results of the research are presented and discussed with the community via scientific papers, didatic bulletins and extension events. They also serve as reference for different professionals who wish to know about the system and the technologies developed.

 

Between 2013 and 2016 over 150 tours made up of TARE agents, farmers, students and researchers from different regions of the State, of Brazil and even from abroad were received, amounting over 3,000 people who visited the Study Crops. In the State of Santa Catarina, the DSVS has already been deployed in the Serra Catarinense, Litoral, Sul, Oeste, Extremo Oeste and Alto Vale do Itajaí regions, totaling over 35 municipalities. The practice has a high degree of replicability, since the production of vegetables is a common family farming feature.

 

 

7 -LESSONS LEARNED

 

The DSVS has brought advances in the adoption of participatory methodologies, in collective construction, in the appropriation of knowledge by technicians and farmers, and in the organization of families. It also promotes spaces for reflection and demonstrates the need for a new approach by the public research and extension services more committed to the production of clean and healthy food and engaged in the construction of a rural-based agro-ecological development model that improves the quality of life of farmers and consumers. As for the learning experiences, the families and the technicians incorporate the new knowledge in their daily lives, understanding the reasons that lead to the reduction in the use of inputs and the improvement in food quality without loss of productivity. The methodological process that involves the collective construction of the “employment contract”, based on reflecting about the reality of each individual and the community, as well as the implementation of the SCrs in the properties for the accompanying of the research process and the obtaining of results has contributed to the rapid and consistent adoption of technologies.

At several moments there is a need for support from the classic research conducted in the Experimental Stations, where specific work and in-depth studies are developed and are subsequently presented and discussed at field days, scientific congresses, training courses, and in state meetings where the technologies developed and the results achieved are presented.

Among the main difficulties and obstacles in the implementation of the System are: the lack of technical assistance teams trained to deal with the complexity of the process, mainly professionals who understand the promotion of plant health dynamics; the difficulty of the producers in planning, taking ownership, and understanding the natural processes as promoters of favorable conditions for the crops; the difficulty in finding cover crop seeds, mainly of summer vegetables; little offer and inefficiency of tillage machines, especially for small properties; the great pressure of the private initiative, due to the reduction in the use of chemical inputs.

  

8 -THE ORIGINALITY OF THE PRACTICE

The system's approach to farming is innovative and brings together knowledge in a systemic manner aiming to promote plant health and provide greater autonomy to the farmers.

  

 

 

Visitation: the best time to visit the crops is from October to December. Up to 50 participants may be received per scheduled visit.

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