We often hear the Amazon Basin described as the “Green Lung of the World”; a vast biological sanctuary of almost 7 million square kilometres, necessary for maintaining the ecological balance of the entire planet.
However, we must not forget South America’s other two vitally important river basins, those of the Orinoco and Paraguay/Paranà: they occupy an immense area of more than 3 and a half million square kilometres, and contain one of South America’s most intensely cultivated zones. The fertile river deposits that make up the soil in this area were the basis for the development of the ancient peoples of South America, who prospered by growing plant species unknown to us Europeans until the discovery of the American continent, including corn, tomato, potato, squash, capsicum, and dozens of varieties of beans. Today we think of these species as “ours”, but at the time of the Conquistadores they were unknown and viewed with suspicion: in Spain, the tomato was considered poisonous for quite some time, and only used as an ornamental garden plant. Even the potato was only used to feed animals for decades after its importation, before eventually becoming one of our favourite vegetables.
When attempts were made to introduce European plants and cereal crops to South America, they did not thrive, or failed to grow at all. The cause was (and still is today) a characteristic of the vast majority of South American soils: their very high acidity. The more acid the soil, the harder it is for seedlings to absorb elements such as calcium, magnesium, potassium and above all phosphorus, a substance necessary both for plant growth and for photosynthesis. Paraguay had to get to grips with the problem in the 1980s, when it began intensive farming of wheat and soybeans. Now, with over 500,000 hectares under cultivation, it is one of the world’s biggest producers of these crops: analysis revealed that more than 85% of the land cultivated was strongly acidic, and needed regular spraying with correctives to allow its use for growing European species. This corrective (an ancient yet simple and still effective remedy) is agricultural lime. Calpar S.A. of Villeta (Paraguay) is one of the biggest South American producers of “Dolomitic Hydrated Lime”, a corrective which, when spread on soils, naturally reduces their acidity, renders them more tillable and facilitates the absorption of nutrients by plants.
“Dolomitic Lime” is obtained by crushing particularly pure, high-magnesium limestones, which are then treated with water, reduced to the right particle size, and then dried. Calpar produces 1,800,000 tonnes of Lime every year, with a storage capacity of 200,000 tonnes of material for drying and storing. Every day (including Sundays and public holidays) around 14,000 tonnes of soil improver are dispatched to destinations throughout Paraguay and South America. To deal with this huge amount of materials, Calpar has acquired a Pegasus 40.18, a vehicle conceived for the construction sector and for particularly high lifting, but successfully converted for use in this specific agricultural sector.
Lime leaving the mills (in big bags, very large bags containing one tonne each) has to be transferred to the drying sheds, aerated from time to time, and then stowed on trucks for shipment. In all these tasks, the Pegasus is aided by its 400° rotation: it would be unthinkable for any forklift, for example, to manoeuvre in the narrow aisles between the stacks of bags, with 4 big bags on its forks… there would not be enough room and it would not have the load capacity!
The Pegasus, on the other hand, is designed for much tougher tasks. It can easily fit 4 bags onto its forks, lift them up, turn through 180° and place them on a truck, perhaps even without shifting is wheels an inch and with the safety (always top priority) of being able to keep an eye on the entire surrounding area from high up in the cab. A 2011 survey calculated that the use of Dolomitic Hydrated Lime has reduced Paraguay’s production costs by 26% and increased yields by 28%, figures which can be extended to all South American’s major river basins, a success in which our Pegasus has also played a small part.