What was the trigger that prompted Walter Schroth to create dryGrow?
Years ago, he met Carlos Tua Guava from Embrapa in Brazil. He has been researching his whole life for the improvement of agriculture and animal husbandry in the semi-arid areas in the northeast of Brazil. He summarized his entire research life by saying to Walter: Without a cactus, solid agronomy in semi-arid regions of the World is unthinkable.
Thousands of farmers were very motivated by his work to expand their cactus plantations with 20 to 60,000 plants per hectare or to create many brand new plantations in Brazil, even in the most intense form. This motivation increased productivity to 250 to 600 per ha/year. It is possible to feed 20 animals with a 1-hectare cactus plantation instead of just one animal on 6 hectares of pasture per year.
However, these new systems meant that the Cochinilla do Carmin spread over most of Brazil. This insect is very aggressive, especially in dry times, and destroys the Opuntia Ficus Indica plantations in no time. Therefore Walter Schroth proposed to strictly control the spread of parasites in new farms through the production of young plants by micro-propagation.
In the following years, hard work and scientific research were also done on the genetic side to develop varieties that are also economically insensitive to pests.
The primary purpose of the dryGrow Foundation is to create Opuntia and related genera for biomass production. We are pursuing this goal by delivering cactus plants of the most suitable varieties to the countries concerned.
dryGrows Cactus is obtained exclusively from in vitro cultures. The proprietary micropropagation protocols developed at dryGrow’s Sicily laboratory in collaboration with the Catania University. This approach mainly serves to prevent the spread of pests and diseases and the possibility of getting large amounts of propagation material, required for the planting of intensive plantations.
These experiences led to the first improvement of the work processes in the production of Cactus in 2013.
Since then, under the responsibility of Aurelio Siebert, a strong collaborator and friend of Walter Schroth, dryGrow has had a cactus plantation in Sicily with its laboratories and a demonstration center that is getting bigger and bigger.
dryGrow has already carried out projects in Madagascar, Brazil, Senegal, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, and Mozambique and also sustained these projects financially.
dryGrow is currently working with Catania University in Italy and the University of Florida – IFAS and several other universities in Africa to investigate a wide range of problems related to planting and feeding opuntias and related species on site.
All of this was only possible through Walter’s Big Heart and his extraordinary generosity. He wanted to be sure that dryGrow will survive in the future.