• Environmental Innovation and Improving the Lemon Crop - Friday, August 22, 2008 at

  • California Fresh Fruit

    August 3, 2008

    Imagine using less water and less fertilizers on your crops, yet produce higher yields and healthier plants and trees. That’s the result of a unique partnership between agricultural giants Limoneira Company, The Newhall Land & Farming Company and the second largest green waste recycler in California, Agromin.Both ag companies use mulch produced by Agromin on hundreds of acres of farmland.

    Limoneira, one of California’s largest agribusinesses, partnered with Agromin in 2004 to develop a five-acre green materials recycling facility on Limoneira land in Santa Paula. The facility receives 200 tons of green materials a day from surrounding municipalities, which is then converted into about 125 tons of mulch. The mulch is distributed throughout Limoneira’s lemon and avocado orchards.

    “Our trees have healthier root systems because of the nutrients in the mulch,” says Alex Teague, senior vice president at Santa Paula-based Limoneira Company. “Crop production has increased 10 percent and the quality of fruit has improved.”

    Since using Agromin mulch, Teague says Limoneira’s water usage is down 32 percent. So is the use of herbicides and pesticides. Erosion is also in check.

    The partnership happened almost by accident. Agromin was looking for a new location for one of its facilities. “Limoneira is a leader in sustainable agriculture. When we saw the opportunity to obtain high quality urban mulch from a quality operator, we jumped at the chance,” says Teague. “We are guaranteed, day in and day out, quality materials for our land. Plus, we are helping the environment by keeping waste out of the landfill.”

    The Agromin-Newhall Land partnership is relatively new. Formed in 2007, Agromin maintains a seven-acre green materials recycling facility on the Newhall Ranch. Agromin receives about 250 tons a day of green materials, collected locally from Valencia and the Santa Clarita Valley. The facility produces about 100 tons of mulch which is used on 250 acres of Valencia orange and lemon groves.

    “Before partnering with Agromin, we used synthetic-based fertilizers to maintain our fruit trees,” says Mike Mendes, general manager of agriculture for Newhall Land. “Now we are reusing a sustainable mulch product and reducing expenses at the same time. By working with Agromin, we only incur the expense of spreading the materials.”

    Mendes notes that the company now uses less herbicide since mulch helps prevent weed growth. “Our trees are healthy and the soil fertility has improved. The soil is now full of earthworms,” he says.Creating a sustainable process was also important to Newhall Land when deciding to use recycled green materials for its agriculture operations. “What was once a waste product is now a valuable resource for our company,” says Mendes. “We’re able to use local green materials that would otherwise end up in a landfill, turn it into mulch, and use it locally in our orchards. We are completing the circle of environmental sustainability.”

    Agromin is the green materials recycler for 19 cities in Ventura, Santa Barbara and parts of Los Angeles counties. It receives over 20,000 tons a day of urban green waste (grass clippings, leaves, branches) at its five processing facilities. The materials are then cleaned of plastics, glass, paper and other “non-green” items. It is chopped and spread into long composting rows where it is watered and turned for about 45 days. Tiny microbes transform the green waste into nutrient-rich compost and eventually mulch.

    “Facilities onsite at Limoneira and Newhall make it easy to distribute the mulch directly to the orchards,” says Bill Camarillo, Agromin’s CFO. “Our three other processing locations distribute products to additional ag companies, municipalities, landscapers and to consumers who can buy in bulk or bag.”

    Agromin’s compost complies with the requirements of the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI). Agromin is one of only five companies in the country that produces plant-only compost products approved by the non-profit organization. OMRI-listed products may be used in certified organic production or food processing according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Organic Program.

    “OMRI approves the products used to grow or produce organic foods,” explains Camarillo. “Farmers who grow organic products can use our ‘Compost 100’ in their fields as part of their effort to comply with USDA organic standards.” Agromin soil products are also certified by the U.S. Composting Council (USCC). The certification means Agromin has met the USCC standards for compost content and its soil products are clean and safe.

    “We cannot continue to put synthetic products into the soil and expect it to be healthy,” says Teague. “Using mulch made from urban green waste in a natural fit. It’s common sense to work with Mother Nature not against her.” ■

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