Sardinia has become renowned as being one of the most beautiful, fascinating, and downright unique territories within Italy – namely due to the fact that it resides as an island, allowing it to foster a sense of individualism that is even more distinct than other regions in the country.
But what sets Sardinian agriculture apart from the mainland, and what are the secrets?
Where Is Sardinia?
Sardinia is the second largest island located in the Mediterranean Sea, off the southernmost tip of Italy – second only to Sicily, which stands as the largest.
The region boasts some of the most diverse landscapes in the entire country, offering visitors mountain ranges, hills, grasslands, woodland, and sunkissed beaches to boot.
While it can be said that each region of Italy has its own distinct flavor – a unique culture defined by their traditions and history – Sardinia is perhaps one of the most unique, and surprisingly remains one of the cheapest places to live and buy in Italy.
Sardinian Agriculture: The Facts
As you can imagine, one of these unique traditions has been agriculture, and like most regions, their unique geography makes the island suited to producing numerous different crops and products.
What Produce Can Be Grown?
The unique landscape and luscious weather means that Sardinians have the capacity to grow numerous different crops, plants, and foodstuffs – something that makes Sardinian agriculture a growing investment opportunity.
Such crops include: annual herbaceous crops, perennial herbaceous crops, and arboriculture and perennial crops.
Annual Herbaceous Crops
These can be grown every single year, and consist of many of the crops we all know, love, and consume on a regular basis, including: wheat, barley, and spelt. There are also numerous leguminous plants, such as wild peas and lentils.
Many of these field crops have great importance all across Italy, where they have historically been used to produce bread, biscuits, cakes, and pizza bases.
Yields of field crops have always been plentiful, however domestic production was increased during the tenure of Mussolini in the 1930s, and this has remained strong to this day.
In terms of perennial crops – which are plants that live for more than two years – there are numerous varieties available to grow on the island. The most notable example is the Sardinian spicy artichoke, which is a delicacy on the island, and has become something of an attractive ingredient all throughout Italy.
Arboriculture & Perennial Crops
These are also widely available on Sardinia – as well as throughout the entirety of Italy and the Mediterranean, and represent many of the foods we have come to associate with the area.
These include: vineyards, olive trees, aromatic plants and herbs, and various kinds of fruit trees. The term ‘arboriculture’ refers to the cultivation of trees and shrubs, and this is a common practice for fruit farmers throughout the region.
The vineyards are perhaps some of the most famous sights all across Italy, and occur in almost every region within the country. Like tomatoes and other heat loving plants, grape vines have long thrived in the country, and have led to some of the greatest wines in the world being produced.
A growing trend all throughout Italy is quinoa – a supposed ‘superfood’, and one that has become a popular replacement for rice in Northern Italy and other regions.
Sardinia has already begun attempting to cultivate this plant, as their soil, conditions, and weather are especially suitable for the production of quinoa – which can then be shipped all across the world.
Of course, one of the most famed exports from Italy are tomatoes – widely used for cooking in all corners of the world.
These include the famed San Marzano tomato, which is considered one of the finest examples of Italian produce – respected by foodies and top chefs all around the world, and steeped in history and reverie since its introduction in 1770 (see more about the San Marzano tomato here).
What Farming Practices Are Employed?
What sets Italy apart from other countries – at least when it comes to farming practices – is that it is quite hilly.
While Italy does indeed have plains and flatlands, these account for roughly one fourth of the cultivated land – something that saw early farmers perfect farming techniques for the rough and irregular terrain that the country has.
In agriculture, terracing is the creation of tiered farmlands that work with uneven and hilly landscapes. These are famed within Italian culture, but can also be seen in various forms throughout Asia and the eastern world.
Generally speaking, terraces are sloped plains that have been cut into a series of shallow, receding flat surfaces so that rows of crops can be grown in uniform with the lay of the land.
This ensures that crops grow straight and aligned, and are not subject to the stresses of gravity, weather, and other obstacles to growth. It also ensures all the plants have access to sunlight, keeping them strong and healthy.
Irrigation has long been an important part of farming – not least of which in Italy, where as we mentioned, the ground is notoriously hilly.
Irrigation is a method of channeling water throughout a patch of crops, ensuring that each tier of the terrace is supplied with an equal amount of water to ensure growth and plant health.
Whereas flatter countries – such as the US and the UK – have numerous acres of flat farmland, and can as such rely on the rain to do the work – countries like Italy have to get a little bit more imaginative to ensure the job gets done.
Another important factor is ensuring soil health is as good as it possibly can be. While soil quality can be somewhat naturally maintained during the summer months, it is the winter when things can go awry – as the soil can be more exposed to the elements without a plant to protect them.
This means ensuring the soil remains moist, balanced in terms of pH, and that it has all the nutrients it needs to continue being fertile and usable.
Some methods include:
- Avoiding soil traffic (and thus compaction)
- Crop rotation between high and low residue crops to leave sufficient plant material on the ground and in the soil
- Tilling the soil – i.e. breaking or plowing the soil to allow oxygen and nutrients to enter the soil (see more about the best soil in Italy)
- Nutrient management to improve the fertility of the soil, and ensure that all of the organic matter content remains stocked and sufficient.
- Adding organic matter – like manure – to the soil to increase fertility
- Planting perennial crops to ensure constantly covered (and protected) soil
And there we have it, everything you need to know about Sardinian agriculture, and the traditions that remain in place to this day.
It’s true that Sardinia is one of the most important and fascinating regions within Italy, and in many ways has come to define itself through its unique culture, history, and practices.
So if you are looking to learn more about Italian agriculture, then why not research or visit Sardinia (see more about the importance of agriculture in Italy right here)? Something tells me you won’t be disappointed!