Epamig uses multifunctional ecological corridors in coffee areas

The project has 10 demonstration units in Cerrado Mineiro and four in Zona da Mata

10.04.2024 | 15:33 (UTC -3)
Mariana Vilela Penaforte de Assis
Photo: publicity/Guima Café
Photo: publicity/Guima Café

The Agricultural Research Company of Minas Gerais (Epamig) has used the technology developed to implement multifunctional ecological corridors to assist in the biological control of pests in coffee farming. The project, which indicates the planting of certain species of perennial trees and shrubs in corridors within and close to coffee plantations, has 10 demonstration units in Cerrado Mineiro and four in Zona da Mata.

Epamig researcher and project coordinator, Madelaine Venzon, says that the work began more than two decades ago. “We started with the selection of plants, followed by tests in the laboratory, in greenhouses, in small areas in Epamig’s experimental fields. We then expanded the area, until we reached the current phase of demonstration units on partner producer farms. In Cerrado Mineiro, the implementation of these units took place in 2021 and we are already analyzing the results of the first year”.

Some criteria must be considered when choosing the trees and shrubs that will be part of the ecological corridors. “These plants must have characteristics that attract the natural enemies of coffee pests and provide food for these insects (pollen and nectar) and shelter, in addition to not benefiting coffee pests. The option is for perennial plants so that the producer does not have to replant every year”, explains the researcher.

Madelaine informs that some species are essential for the implementation of the multifunctional corridor. “We have an Epamig technology model, with the basic species that should make up the corridor, but the implementation on the properties is always in a participatory manner, so, for example, if the producer who places an avocado or some plant that is of interest to wood, these other species can be integrated into this corridor. We have the obligatory plants that attract coffee pest predators and parasitoids and pollinators, both of which benefit coffee, but that doesn't mean they have to be exclusive. They have to be in greater density and the final arrangement relies on the participation and interest of the producer.”

Implementation of areas

Basic studies, obtained from research carried out by Epamig, indicate that each ecological corridor must be located at a maximum distance of 40 meters from each other to have a positive effect on combating pests. But the position may vary depending on the region. “This also depends on the producer, it can vary depending on the mechanization of farming, the relief, as in the case of mountainous areas. We are based on the basic model, which is a validated technology, with proven results, published in international journals with a relevant impact factor, in addition to having been reviewed by other researchers, and adapts to the reality of the property”, highlights Madelaine Venzon.

The species considered necessary, which were identified throughout the work, are ingá (tree), baleeira herb (shrub), fedegoso (tree) and a shrub, similar to fedegoso, nicknamed by the team as fedegosinho. “The initial seedlings we used to plant this fedegosinho and baleeira herb were produced here at Epamig in Viçosa, during the pandemic by me and my team”, recalls the researcher.  

Collaborative work

The beginning of the implementation of the demonstration units and the evaluation of the results is part of a project in partnership with Nespresso. Subsequently, it was approved by notice 40 of Fapemig/Secretariat of Economic Development (Headquarters), resources for the expansion of the project, to the Matas de Minas region.

Producer Isabel Cristina de Carvalho, from the municipality of Coromandel in Alto Paranaíba, says that the search for responsible management and the reduction of the use of chemical pesticides in crops has always been the premise of Estrela Carvalho coffees “Our brand brings the essence of our family, the strength of Carvalho and the search for excellence. We believe that the earth is a great living being, and everything we do is designed to ensure its integrity. Since 1981, when we came to Cerrado Mineiro, we have used direct planting and planted thousands of species of native trees. From 2021, with the partnership with Epamig, we were encouraged to use biological control in its various forms and alternatives. This experience has already been applied across the entire farm.”

“Epamig subsidizes us with research data on the use of biological pest control. He provided us with seedlings and seeds and encouraged us to plant baleeira and fedegosinho grass, ingá and other plants that are attractive to beneficial insects, natural enemies of pests, such as leafminers. Since 2022, researcher Madelaine Venzon's team has been carrying out sampling that includes all biodiversity and analysis of leaves, soil and fruits in organic coffee farming. In the end, these results will also be related to aspects of coffee quality”, continues Isabel.

Estrela Carvalho coffee achieved first place in the Cerrado Mineiro coffee quality awards. “We are located in the noble terroir of Pântano and we had the great joy and honor of achieving this award with organic coffee, coming from the plot in which the Epamig team is our partner”, he concludes.

Also a partner in this work, Guimá Café, belonging to the BMG Group, has been investing in sustainability and the production of special drinks since 2018. The property, between the municipalities of Varjão de Minas and Patos de Minas, in the Cerrado Mineiro, was acquired in 1977, and has a specific focus on coffee farming. 

“We rely on the results of Epamig research to make decisions on crop management, technical knowledge necessary for the adoption of regenerative practices. Not to mention the professional relationship we achieved. In the project we currently have on the farm, we rely on visits. Every two months, they collect insects, leaves and soil and biometrics, and guide us in carrying out regenerative planting. We understand that our role is to collaborate by opening the doors of farms and providing fields for experiments and action research that benefit and complement studies related to the topic, which is a source of pride for us”, says the agricultural technician at Guima Café, Ricardo Oliveira.

“Since our choice to adopt more sustainable practices, we have a team and professionals with a high level of technical knowledge, which has helped us to achieve and achieve the objectives of such a demanding market and committed to environmental issues.”, points out the technician.

“By choosing to invest in regenerative agriculture, our objectives are to promote environmental sustainability, regenerate degraded agricultural ecosystems, improve soil health, increase the resilience of farms to climate change, reduce dependence on external inputs such as synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, conserve biodiversity, increase long-term productivity and ensure food security for future generations”, says Ricardo. “The idea is also to mitigate the climatic effects of high temperatures on coffee cultivation combined with biodiversity without harming the environment, making agriculture more resilient and responsible”, he concludes.

In 2023, Guima Café from Grupo BMG won “Best of the best” in 8th. Ernesto Illy International Coffee Award, held in New York. The winning lot is from the MGS Paraíso 2 cultivar, developed by Epamig's Coffee Genetic Improvement Program.    

Epamig's conservative biological control technologies are implemented on coffee producing farms in Patrocínio, Monte Carmelo, Varjão de Minas, Patos, Carmo do Paranaíba, Coromandel, in the Cerrado Mineiro, and Paula Cândido, Araponga and Espera Feliz, in the Zona da Woods.

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