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La Moraleja: Industrial Lemon Production in Salta, Argentina

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La Moraleja is the world largest irrigated drip feed Lemon Production farm showing the most striking power of man over nature to generate food and jobs and generate good profits at the same time.

Where there was Salteño Forest previously today there are 3000 hectares of lemons watered by drip feed, with a processing factory that by industrialization exports 90% its products: lemon oil, concentrated juices and dehydrated peel.

In addition they have 40 hectares of greenhouses producing tomatoes, peppers and melons. Employment is provided to 1500 people, 400 permanent and 1100 as temporary.

Last year La Moraleja won the Best Food Industry in Agricultural Excellence Award granted by La Nacion and Banco Galicia.

Ignacio Blanco is a Spanish agronomist who arrived in the early eighties to Argentina Sanchis, commissioned by the family to take over the land they had bought in Salta.

Ignacio Blanco came with the experience he had learned in the Leon region where he was born where it rained just over 400 millimeters per year. Without water there can be no production. The first thing he noticed was that there was variable rainfall with 800 mm a year raining only in the summer months.

But the irrigation water did not come from the storms that filled the Cabeza de Vaca stream passing through the property. Ignacio built a new waterway amid total indifference where no-one else had thought to take it.

This took many years to build with limited resources.  Using his own machinery, he built canals and a dam of 200 hectares with a capacity to store 11 million cubic meters of water.

Now La Moraleja uses gravity to irrigate the entire surface area, without having to utilise additional energy sources.

They now have an export contract to supply lemon oil for 20 yrs.  This process begins in the greenhouses where the lemon seedlings are grafted to tangerine stock, for a better and healthier root system, which are then transplanted into the groves.  This process takes at least four years for the profitable production of lemons to begin.  Each plant can produce 2000 lemons, achieving peak production the ninth year with the end of the life cycle of the tree being eighteen years.

The design and installation of the drip irrigation system was by an Israeli company who hired Naan Dan to design and advise the system.

At the time of construction, according to Israeli technicians, it was the largest project of its type worldwide.  Using no less than 7700 kilometers of pipes, the drip irrigation fits the concept of producing more with less and is an efficient system in resource use.

Drops of water are deposited underground, avoiding the evaporation losses that may occur on the surface.  In addition, the use of this system can eliminate diseases that arise from the contact of water with the leaves.

By using information provided by phyto-monitors,  the exact temperature and humidity can be predicted, thus allowing protection against fungal attack.  Additionally, the growth of the plant can be monitored for moisture and fertilization needs.

The lemon oil demand by leading soft drink companies worldwide, launched an ambitious plan to expand production in La Moraleja. The goal is to add 1,000 hectares of lemons over the next four years. This increase will generate additional new jobs. They have calculated that 450 permanent staff and 2,100 temporary staff will be required when the project is completed.

Translated from the La Nacion

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