The cultivation of thistle: an opportunity for a new agro-industrial relationship

The cultivation of thistle: an opportunity for a new agro-industrial relationship

The initial results of the experiments begun last autumn are presented at the headquarters in Porto Torres, along with the programme for the development of the innovative production chain

Porto Torres, 4 July 2012 ľ A wide cross-section of the Sardinian farming world today came together at the headquarters of Matrýca, the joint venture between Novamont and Versalis, for the first technical/informative session on the cultivation of thistle, a herbaceous species that is particularly suited to the production of biomass and oil, the raw materials for the ┤third-generation biorefinery┤ that will be created at the Matrýca plant in Porto Torres and that will produce chemical intermediates and bioplastics using an approach that is fully integrated with the local agricultural production chain currently being established.

Numerous herbaceous species could be used for the production of biomass and oil, but only some of them ľ the subject of experiments that are already under way ľ can be cultivated under Sardinia┤s typically arid climatic conditions without recourse to the use of irrigation, in line with the criteria of low-input sustainable agriculture. These criteria are very much guiding principles for the Matrýca project.

Thistle (Cynara Cardunculus) is one such species: although considered a weed until very recently, thanks to its high level of productivity it can be cultivated across large surface areas even in soils that are not very fertile, and in areas where the annual rainfall is very low; the vigorous development of the epigeal part and of the root system makes it particularly suitable for cultivation in environments that are at risk of erosion and desertification. But that┤s not all. Thistle is a plant that competes with weeds, and easily adapts to the surrounding environment, with minimal requirements for nitrogen or other nutrients, and is generally not subject to attack by insects or plant diseases. Once planted, the only work required in the fields is the annual harvesting of the biomass and/or the seed, which is carried out in the dry season ľ between July and August ľ thereby reducing the risks of soil compaction. In the autumn, the fall of the first leaves formed by the rosette contributes to the creation of humus-rich surface soil that enhances the physical characteristics of the terrain itself. In short, it is a crop that requires only low-level input, thereby significantly reducing environmental impact.

Having described the first phase of experimentation, which began last autumn, and delineated the next steps for the multitude of experiments currently under way, with a view to drafting ľ at the end of the experimental phase ľ a protocol on the cultivation of thistle, the speakers went on to illustrate to the farmers their experiences thus far, before proposing guidelines for the links that are expected to be created between Matrýca and the local farm companies. ┤Our ambition is to give rise to an innovative business model that meets both our industrial requirements and those of Sardinian farms. We want to arrive at a state-of-the-art model of agro-industrial integration, geared towards putting together an innovative production chain with low levels of environmental impact,┤ stated Matrýca┤s Michele Falce.

The meeting provided an opportunity to share in the early stages of a path that may lead to the signing of a policy agreement that identifies the main objectives and defines the role of each party within the production chain, in compliance with the parties┤ reciprocal values, and with a particular focus on the management of the local area, on Italian manufacturing and on protecting the environment. "We are convinced that these activities will make a tangible contribution to the budgetary conciliation round-table set up by the Autonomous Region of Sardinia in accordance with the protocol signed by the Office of the President of the Council of Ministers." stressed Matrýca board member, Marco Versari. ┤Our aim is to create a bona fide alliance with Sardinia┤s farm businesses, based on shared values and on a commitment to safeguarding the local area and the native produce, in order to generate employment and sustainable investment┤.

News and press releases | Wed, 4 July 2012

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