Humus per la Biofera: Our EUKI project demonstrates good practice on our fields

A new pond: retention basin, water reservoir and habitat

On our agricultural trial fields east of the volcano Etna, our partner organisation Giacche Verdi Bronte created an irrigation pond in the upper slope area. This measure, as part of preparing the planting of multifunctional hedges, already has multiple benefits in itself: As a retention basin, the pond holds back water in times of heavy rainfall and prevents soil erosion, it stores carbon, has a balancing effect on the microclimate, and it promotes biodiversity, e.g. as a spawning ground for amphibians in spring or as a habitat for moisture-loving spontaneous vegetation.

Project Humus per la Biosfera - Main page

March 2023: The pond keeps its water and gives good results! First vegetation settles. Photo: Gino Montagno, president of Giacche Verdi Bronte, presents the construction to visitors from Germany.

In summer, the pond provides collected rainwater for plant irrigation as an alternative to the common practice in this area of drawing water from the Simeto River.

Preliminary work

Photo on the left in December 2022: excavations, project partners of Giacche Verdi and the University of Catania.
Photo on the right in January 2023: Waiting for rain... 

Ready to plant hedges!

Woodchat Shrike (Lanius senator) in neighboring hedge

Hedge rows are valuable elements in the landscape in many ways: they provide food, nesting sites, and hiding places for birds, insects and small mammals. They serve as important soil protection against erosion caused by wind and water, especially on slopes. Hedges enrich soil life with their root systems and store carbon in the soil through dying roots; this input of organic material is enhanced by regular hedge trimming. It is assumed that the root mass adapts to the above-ground greenery. The growing humus content improves the climate and water balance. 

In the spring of 2023, we began planting hedges on one of our experimental fields near Bronte: along a length of about 800 meters, we stabilized the terraced edges of the olive grove on a slope. With the active support of international volunteers and interns, we planted native aromatic plants, shrubs and trees; the latter partially undersown with legumes.

One of the hedge rows is planted with Laurel and is accompanied by a legume undersowing of chickpeas.

The slope of the terrain allows the water to be directed to the plants with no need for a water pump. Using a low-evaporation drip irrigation system, it will sparingly and selectively reach each hedge plant, aiding them through the hot summers until, after a few years, they will be large enough to fend for themselves.

Planted herbs and shrubs are Cistus salviifolius, Salvia Rosmarinus (photo left), Teucrium frutican, Lavandula angustifolia, Origanum vulgare.

The hedges are enriched by some trees: Phillyrea angustifolia, Pistacia lentiscus, Arbutus unedo (photo right), Myrtus communis and Laurus nobilis.

Read more on our project page Humus per la Biosfera with detailed photo documentation of all activities.