Arable crops

The most obvious impact of the move to organic farming methods has been on arable crop rotation. Until 1999 seeding choices were influenced mainly by European Community subsidies, durum wheat alternating with rape or sunflowers. Since the year 2000, however, our main concern has been to restore and maintain the soil's natural fertility. Although the Estate does not rear any livestock, we returned to large-scale growing of legumes which was widespread until the 1960s, when every share-cropping family still had two or more pairs of oxen to work the fields. Clover, lucerne, sulla and field beans have the property of fixing atmospheric nitrogen, which the crop residues then release into the soil ready for next year's wheat or barley crop.
The choice of organic farming has also given a further push to crop diversification, thanks to the growth of the processing and marketing sectors which connect producers and consumers of organic products. In recent years we have introduced many new crops. In response to demand from local processors and mills we have abandoned industrial cereal varieties in favour of traditional cultivars, such as Verna common wheat and Senatore Cappelli durum wheat, spelt and kamut, and we produce linseed, chick peas and lentils. We sell oats and barley to organic wine-growers (10% of Tuscan vineyards) which sow them between rows to increase the organic matter in the soil.
Nearly all these crops require less fertiliser, have moderate yields but command higher prices, an interesting combination that makes the farm more independent of the conventional circuits and the industrial interests that disadvantage agriculture.
Twenty years have passed since we branched off from the mainstream of conventional farming. After overcoming the inevitable hard times during the early stages of the transition, we have achieved production results similar to those of the 1990s without using petroleum-based fertilisers or sophisticated weedkillers, and producing most of the seed that we use. We have also found a way of continuing with the traditional methods used to farm this land in the past, rediscovering production avenues that were closed off by technical progress in the 1960s.

Arable crop at Avanella