At Production, Dole Food Company Invests In Soil Health and Promoting Biodiversity
A global leader in fresh produce production, Total Produce partner Dole has had an active research and innovation department in place for almost 60 years.
The main objective: continuous agricultural science and technology innovations that can help our growers to increase yields and produce fruits and vegetables more efficiently, which are often better for the planet and for society – not least because it can mean using less water, energy and land to produce nutritious food to help feed the world’s growing population.
Soil Health Techniques On Banana Plantations
The application of beneficial micro-organisms at Dole banana plantations in Latin America is showing promising signs that increased soil health can increase yields and reduce the need for synthetic fertilizers. At our farm in La Gomera in Guatemala, Dole has successfully introduced a practice of using micro-organisms to break down crop residue – the leaves and parts of banana plants that stay behind in the field after harvest – improving plants’ root systems and increasing absorption of nutrients, for increased yields. Since the original trial in 2017, the technique is being tested at banana farms across the region to see if those farms can achieve similar results. At a Dole organic banana plantation in Manabí, Ecuador, growers and researchers have been experimenting with the reintroduction of biological activity in compost as a way to naturally improve soil health.
Protecting Biodiversity In Costa Rica
At Valle La Estrella in Costa Rica, Dole, GIZ (a German government agency) and local NGOs have completed the “Green Star” three-year study into the biodiversity in Estrella Valley, where a Dole-owned banana plantation sits adjacent to the Hitoy Cerere Biological Reserve. Community volunteers were given training and sent into the field for three consecutive years to catalog animal biodiversity on non-agricultural lands around the plantation.
This first-of-its-kind study documented the presence of at least 13 species of amphibians and reptiles, eight species of mammals plus a variety of beetles and aquatic micro- invertebrates. Researchers also found that forest land within the Estrella Valley plantation boundaries make the site effectively carbon neutral. In Costa Rica, almost one-third of the land Dole owns is covered by forests or other natural ecosystems. The Green Star study provides a baseline for additional monitoring and could offer a model for similar studies at agricultural sites in the region and beyond. By raising awareness both locally and internationally of the biodiversity found in these areas, the study will help to ensure these habitats are valued and well cared for into the future.