An organic amendment is any material of plant or animal origin that can be added to the soil to improve its physical properties, including water retention, permeability, water infiltration, drainage, aeration and structure.
Dole uses organic amendments, such as compost and humic acids, to preserve top-soil and increase organic matter in the field. A greater amount of organic matter improves the soil structure, facilitates water and nutrient absorption, decreases erosion and overall enhances plant development.
Another way to preserve soils and increase organic matter content is to incorporate more plant material (crop residue) after harvesting the crops. This technique is exemplified by the biomass preservation practices that are now performed at all Dole and grower pineapple operations. Traditionally, pineapple plant residue was desiccated using an herbicide and then burned. For environmental purposes, this method has been replaced by manual and mechanical methods that incorporate the crop residue into the soil, thus increasing organic matter and soil carbon.
Not only do these programs limit soil erosion, but they also reduce the use of herbicides, fertilizers and other agrochemicals, while protecting valuable natural resources and groundwater.
In Costa Rica, Dole’s soil conservation programs in pineapple production have lowered the soil erosion rate to less than 7 tons/hectare*/year – an erosion rate so low, that it is rare in any agricultural industry. In fact, on average Costa Rica’s other agricultural activities face erosion rates of approximately 70 tons/hectare/year.
In order to share effective sustainability methods with the country’s pineapple industry, the Costa Rican Chamber of Pineapple Producers and Exporters (CANAPEP) worked with Dole to organize and lead industry seminars on soil conservation. To date, Dole and CANAPEP have organized two industry seminars focusing on methods for preserving soil. In addition, Dole has undertaken six events of a similar nature for Dole’s growers and the communities adjacent to the pineapple farms. An official CANAPEP Soil Conservation Manual, written by Dole experts, was distributed to all CANAPEP members for their immediate use in the fields. Pineapple operations in Honduras and Ecuador also received soil conservation seminars, as well as custom soil conservation manuals for their specific farms. Dole’s soil scientists review these programs in both Company-owned farms and its independent producers.
Dole is constantly seeking technologies that improve its productivity and sustainability. In doing so, it’s become one of the few companies to measure soil erosion levels in the fields. All findings are included in a farm-specific soil conservation manual that Dole developed and continues to update every three years.
* 1 hectare=2.47105 acres