The Ecoagro Revolution in Mexico
Bernardo Castro Medina at the ECOAGRO expo in 2012. Diagram shows progressive loss of soils through erosion and remineralization as a solution.
Conventional agriculture practices are causing severe damage to the soils, due in part to the indiscriminate use of fertilizers and chemical products applied to feed plants and control diseases in crops. Recently, international efforts are being made to guide companies and farmers in the process of producing healthier foods that help in the conservation of the environment and the health of consumers.
Bernardo Castro Medina of ECOAGRO first learned about rock dust and its benefits decades ago from Jairo Restrepo, a Colombian permaculture consultant. ECOAGRO, a collaboration of farmers located in Sinaloa, Mexico, has been advocating for and utilizing remineralization since 1997, developing sustainable agriculture techniques in order to offer chemical-free products. ECOAGRO educates producers and consumers about the benefits of using sustainable fertilizers made up of rock dust and other natural, organic ingredients.
ECOAGRO carried out its first fertilization tests on corn fields, which resulted in fewer pest problems, larger leaves and thicker stems. The results demonstrated that through the use of organic fertilizers containing rock dust, earthworm castings, and irrigation with magnetically treated water, unproductive lands can recover through the reduction of agrochemicals.
In Mexico rock dust is referred to as “Mother Earth’s Milk” because of its ability to maintain and immunize the soil. Rock dust is food for the microorganisms that are essential to soil health. From the moment the soil is watered, the plants directly assimilate the alkaline rock dust.
Castro recommends adding a combination organic fertilizers when inoculating seeds with microorganisms. For the irrigation process, ECOAGRO provides the grower with a special machine and applicators that irrigate the crops with rock dust.
When comparing conventional fertilizers to organic fertilizers, Medina explains that the conventional fertilizer is expensive and can cost around $5000 MXN per ton ($269 USD approx), while rock dust is sold in the Mexican market at $2000 MXN per ton ($107 USD approx) already pulverized. “The amount of fertilizer that should be used depends on the grower’s budget, however, for best results, we recommend 500 kilos per hectare,” concludes Bernardo.
ECOAGRO produces different types of fertilizers depending on the type of crop. These products come in liquid and solid forms and incorporate a variety of ingredients: a base of Bacillus thuringiensis with diatomaceous earth, mineral calcium extracted from mines, and marine calcium. The products contain humic acids composed of seaweed, earthworm castings, rock dust, magnetizers, and peat (humic and fulvic acids). One product, Solid Mix Ecoagro (Mezcla Sólida Ecoagro), is a formula enriched in rock dust, phosphorus, silicon, leonardite (charcoal), microbial floras, earthworm castings, and calcium. This special ECOAGRO formula costs around $3000 MXN ($161 USD approximately).
ECOAGRO provides training and shares all its experiences with its fellow producers through a conference called “Taller Internacional de Agricultura Orgánica” (International Workshop on Organic Agriculture) held during the second quarter of each year where Mexican and foreign visitors have the opportunity to learn how to prepare their own biofertilizers. Nearly 100 farmers gather to share experiences and learn about new sustainability practices. These farmers then spread the word and teach other producers in different states of Mexico and other parts of the world, farmer-to-farmer. According to Medina, currently between 30,000 and 40,000 hectares have been remineralized with organic fertilizers thanks to the awareness-raising efforts of ECOAGRO.
Medina describes the current agricultural situation in Mexico as an agriculture in crisis, dependent on large transnationals with all the great problems of toxicity inherent to conventional agriculture. “Fishing is in crisis, ecosystems are being damaged,” says Medina. This is why Medina and a majority of the people of Mexico hope the new President Andrés Manuel López Obrador will fulfill his promises and create a sustainable development model for their country.
ECOAGRO also demonstrates its high level of innovation and use of natural resources by creating products with diverse formulas and byproducts. For example, coffee extract is included in a special ECOAGRO formula and can also be used independently as a foliar spray that works as a repellent against insects and acts as a biofertilizer for the soil, stimulating the roots and growth of the plant.
One example of an ECOAGRO workshop is their demonstration of how to prepare 200 liters of the organic biofertilizer coffee extract. One needs only 5 liters of inexpensive regular coffee, equal quantities of whey and worm leachate, charcoal or biochar, and between 2 and 3 kilos of rock dust and marine calcium. Once mixed, the product is allowed to rest for 40 days, so that all the ingredients are concentrated. During the time the mixture is at rest, it is magnetized for 4 hours with a special magnetizer composed of magnets, quartz, and sand. To this type of fertilizer, one can add as many minerals as preferred to further enrich the formula.
Among other extracts that ECOAGRO produces are: bio-fish (fish extract), peat with bat guano, minerals (marine calcium, mineral calcium, charcoal plant ash, diatomaceous earth and rock meal), plant extract from moringa, alfalfa and stevia, neem extract (which acts as a repellent), fruit amino acid (made from fruit waste), disintegrating microorganisms of organic matter based on rice and improved super macro (earthworm castings).
Bernardo Canizales, a farmer from the region, shared his testimony about the quality of ECOAGRO’s solid formula and the additional ingredients he decided to incorporate to strengthen it. Bernardo added 600 kilos of ECOAGRO solid formula, 20 kilos of nitrogen, and 200 kilos of ammonium sulfate per hectare.
As can be seen, ECOAGRO is dedicated to remineralization and making farmers aware of environmental sustainability, guaranteeing not only more yields and economy for the grower but also agrochemical-free products for the consumer.
Katherine Robayo Vanegas graduated from University Catholic of Pereira in Colombia with a Bachelor’s degree in International Business. She has a certificate on Children and Climate Change and Project Management. She has also followed courses in Politics and Human Rights at Smith College. Since 2017, she has been working as a volunteer with the Circle of Care that helps refugee families in Northampton, Massachusetts. She believes we all can do something to make the world a better place to live and wants to be an inspiration to positively impact other people’s lives. She is very happy to be working at RTE assisting the director as the Spanish Correspondent and hopes to use her knowledge and efforts on communicating and raising awareness of sustainable development issues.