R&D: formula for sustainable development
The agricultural sector is recognized for its ability to leverage economic growth and development. Colombia is considered by the FAO as one of the 25 countries with the greatest potential for expanding its agricultural frontier. According to the entity, more than half of the land that could be used for agricultural production is located in only seven countries, among which is Colombia.
However, one of the main bottlenecks for the development of the field is low productivity and competitiveness, which can only be overcome with investment in Research and Development.
Since its inception, the sugarcane agribusiness has been aware of this, and has consistently invested in Research, Development and Innovation. As a result of this vision, the Cenicaña Sugarcane Research Center was born in 1977, following the recommendation of a study by Fedesarrollo to improve the competitiveness of the sugarcane and panela cane agribusiness. Today the results are tangible: in the last 25 years, Colombia doubled its productivity and is today the country with the highest world yield in average sugar production per hectare.
Both the 14 mills, as well as the more than 2.750 cane growers, contribute 0,65% of their income from the sale of sugar and bioethanol to Cenicaña, a percentage much higher than that allocated to other sectors for research. In 2016, these contributions totaled more than $ 27.000 million.
Cenicaña is an international benchmark in research, and is visited by scientists from the main sugar-producing countries, and even from other productive sectors, to adopt their best practices and their operating model. Today it has 14 PHD researchers and 20 with master's degrees, who are dedicated to obtaining new and better varieties of cane, developing and adapting technologies for crop management and improving the efficiency of industrial operations. It supports growers in the implementation of the site-specific agriculture approach (Aeps), which allows agronomic practices to be carried out according to the particular conditions of each soil. For this, the agribusiness has the largest detailed soil study in the country for a crop. The Center has a modern interactive system that offers growers a series of tools for analysis and consultation of geographic, climate and commercial production databases; and access to information and technologies for cane management. The system tells the producer which is the best variety of cane to sow in each lot and advises him on the management of localized irrigation.
Cenicaña also makes use of biotechnology for the development of new varieties of sugarcane and for biological control in pest management. Today, the main pest of sugarcane cultivation in the geographic valley of the Cauca River is controlled 100% with living organisms, without the use of pesticides, which undoubtedly contributes to sustainable development.
The Center's work is at the service of the sugarcane agroindustrial sector to make the sugar, energy and bioethanol production processes more efficient, clean and profitable, but also contributes to the development of the panelero sector. Thanks to an agreement with Corpoica, Cenicaña gives them varieties of cane for free and provides them with training and support for the sanitary management of the crop, throughout the country. This is one more way of how the sugarcane agribusiness promotes the sustainable development of Colombia.