Marin Petrov has been working on his 3 ha farm for 5 years now, producing organic seasonal fruit and vegetables. He is helped by his family – his wife, daughter and son – and by seasonal workers during the key periods of cultivation – planting, weeding, harvesting etc.
When we started out, everybody used to tell us to use synthetic pesticides and fertilizers to make our lives easier. However, it’s not a question of how difficult it is to do something or how much it costs – it’s a matter of principle: it comes down to how much you care about what you eat and what your children eat. What’s important to me is my granddaughter’s health and I want to give our customers the same quality food that I’d give to her.
Description of the agro-ecological practice
To keep weeds under control, Marin uses a combination of mechanical and hand weeding, supplemented by organic crop fertilization at precise times to ensure that the crops outcompete the weeds.
Technical information on this agro-ecological practice
- Fertilizer: Marin uses Alga600, a seaweed-based fertilizer that includes substances to promote plant growth. He dissolves half a bucket of the fertilizer in one bucket of water. The substance is then filtered and added to the drip irrigation system (through a mixing system). Before planting, Marin uses a fertilizer derived from Californian worms to restore the nutrients to the soil.
- Weeding: a cultivator is used to remove the major weeds between rows of crops. Then hand weeding is carried out until the crops (courgettes, for example) grow big enough not to be suffocated by the weeds (or until they cover the soil surface).
Economical information on this practice
- Price of fertilizer: about €50 per kg
- Hand weeding is labour-intensive: the cost depends on the daily wage rate for seasonal workers and the amount of land to be cultivated. The wages of seasonal workers in Bulgaria tend to vary between €14 and €19 per person per day. 4-5 workers would usually be enough to support the family during the most labour-intensive periods, such as for weeding.
Through these ecological practices, weeding is carried out safely and with respect for the environment, without the need for synthetic chemical herbicides. A contribution is also made to local employment. Overall, the cost of controlling weeds ecologically is similar to the cost of treating them chemically, but without the harm and with additional benefits to human health, soil health and rural livelihoods.