Mr. José Antonio Andreu
In conversation with Mr. José Antonio Andreu, grower in Argentina
‘I come from a small farmers family that started as bell pepper growers in a rented 2 hectare farm where we worked the land alongside our parents, my 6 sisters, 3 brothers and I. Back then we had to do all farming chores manually. No mechanical equipment was available. Horses were the only help in ploughing and cultivation. We had to work really very, very hard and working prevailed over anything else.
In the 60’s my 2 brothers and I began planting 100 bags of seed potatoes along with a few hectares of garlic, watermelon and other vegetables. With many difficulties, mainly due to the challenging climate conditions in our area, our business began to grow slowly. In the 70´s we bought our first small 30 HP tractor. It was an incredible progress and farming became completely different! Year after year we improved our crop management and thereby our results.
Second planting season
Between the 60’s and 70’s, when potato production started to develop, we cultivated only one crop a year. We would plant in August and harvest in December with very high temperatures. Mid 70’s we began experimenting with the development of a second planting season with a small group of growers. We planted in February-March and harvested in June-July. This brought on new difficulties like high soil temperatures but also frost. Due to climate changes the last 10 years we have been achieving acceptable yields for the extreme conditions we work under (25-30 tons/hectare).
Later on we made a temporary partnership and scaled up to larger production acreage, planting 100 hectares of potatoes. We kept on growing and by the 80´s we were able to buy land 30 kilometers further down with new rich soils and large open fields. In the 90´s we built up our cold storages. In 2005 we have replaced the furrow irrigation by the center pivot irrigation system, which allowed us to save a lot of water and hand labour costs, increasing also our yields and quality. Currently, we plant 800 hectares of potatoes, 400 in each crop. 75% is grown under pressurized irrigation systems.
We started working with HZPC 6 years ago by testing new varieties. Sagitta emerged as a very promising alternative to the most common variety Spunta. Sagitta is very suitable as a winter crop. It is a variety that emerges very fast, has less emergence failure than Spunta, has a faster development and tuberisation and produces uniform and better-quality tubers reaching same or better yields per hectare.’