Drones are precision agriculture tools with infinite possibilities. In Cortijo el Puerto we use drones to conduct inspections of the land. By viewing their images and processing their data with specialized software, we can detect if the crops are too humid or dry, if they suffer stress due to water deficit, if they are sick or have isolated problems with infestation. After knowing the specific issue, we delimit the management area and decide, using a variety of techniques, how to respond.
Use of drones in Cortijo el Puerto:
Monitoring water on days of heavy rain. Immediately after precipitation is over, the farm will be inspected to check the soil behavior after rainfall, water circulation and the location of critical accumulation points. After a few days, the rainwater is circulated again. Prompt action avoids damage to the generality of the flora and allows us to redirect leftover water to the “multipurpose” ponds.
Monitoring the soil. Soil makes life possible. Periodically drones fly over the farm in order to sample the land surface, using the plants as bioindicators. Depending on the species predominating in each zone, specific problems of the soil can be detected. For example, if daisies predominate, the soils are likely poor in nitrogen with subsurface defects; we solve this by applying variable quantities of phosphoric rock to enhance the development of legumes and fix the atmospheric nitrogen. If nettles dominate, the soil has an excess of manure, so we diminish the presence of cattle and gramineous plants to consume the excess of fertilizer. Our particular “FAO” challenge is to create healthy soils to produce healthy food.
Monitoring Tree Colouration. A single drone flight provides valuable information that our trees transmit from the sky. The lighter or darker green of the crowns of trees, the vigor of the branches… depending on their state we can monitor how irrigation is working, locate diseases before they spread, avoid blight/disease and act in real time according to the severity of the problem detected.
In Cortijo el Puerto, we are committed to R&D system and devoted to Organic Farming. We have selected the plants (genetic analysis selection for seed shape in plant breeding, efficient, reliable, high-throughput seed phenotyping methods, outcome of years of experience in research, innovation, and the development of new formats, such as the almond tree’s dwarfing patterns or the hedgerow system for both the olive grove and the almond trees.
The main lines of research and inquiry at Cortijo el Puerto are:
Management of contrasting varieties for the cultivation (hedgerow system)and study of other varieties not adapted initially to this system, (olive,almond and citrus). Currently, we use the hedgerow system to cultivate olive varieties: Arbosana, Arbequina, Picual, Picuda, Hojiblanca, Koroneiki, Cornicabra and Oliana. Varieties of almond with dwarfing patterns (Lauranne, Belona, Soleta, Guara and Ferraduel) also using hedgerow system. We are also developing innovations in citrus with selected rootstocks.
Testing of native seeds for plant cover. We are working with the Semillas Silvestres SL (a pioneer company in producing native seeds from the Iberian Peninsula in order to conserve and recover the biodiversity of ecosystems and agricultural crops) in the NASTEEC (The Native Seed Science Technology and Conservation https://nasstec.eu/home ) project. A European research project Marie Curie 2014 – 2018 to promote the production of native seeds in Europe and their use in environmental restoration.
We are developing R & D in the pollination of olive and almond trees. The olive is traditionally pollinated by the action of the wind; it is not an attractive tree for bees because it does not have nectaries (in flowers, organ or part that secretes nectar). In Cortijo el Puerto we are experimenting with strategic combinations of pollen from our own varieties of olive trees, flowers and vegetation covers of the alleys/rows of the olive grove, all combined with the strategic distribution of bee hives. Improving pollination increases crop yield and quality. We also support our autofertile flowers varieties (almond trees) with hives and Bombus terrestris bumblebees, capable of pollinating in the most complicated circumstances.