One of the stations on the field tour is the compost station where we showed a demo of how to make compost. We gave step by step guidelines showing the content of each layer in the compost pile together with the size of the whole pile. Compost is not difficult to make because it consists of natural components that are easily accessible to us. Compost feeds the soil unlike chemical fertilizers which just feed the plant only and eventually degrades the soil. Compost also has a better moisture holding capacity than normal soil which can be vital to the crops that experience a dry spell or drought., Compost helps a farmer reduce their dependency on chemical fertilizers, saving the farmer lots of money. Furthermore, as the soil fertility increases the yield improves over time making the field more profitable.
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At this station we are comparing chemical fertilizer with compost. We marked out different sections, for some we put D compound fertilizer while in others, we substituted the basal fertilizer with compost. We monitored the growth of these crops and added urea top dressing to both crops at the recommended time. In the end we noticed that the yields were similar. The highest harvest for the fertilizer section was 43.5kg of maize while in the compost sections the highest harvest was 43.3kg. Interestingly in the fertilizer section there was a waste of 115 rotten cobs and in the compost section there was only 56 wasted cobs. This is a difference of 59 cobs.
In this comparison we discovered that it is more economically viable to use compost rather than fertilizer because the production cost is reduced to almost half without the basal fertilizer to obtain a similar yield. Compost helps to regenerate the soil and enhancing the yields long-term while chemical degrade the soil decreasing the yields long-term.
In this station we compare conservation and conventional methods of farming. The trail has been running for 8 years now. One of the striking differences we saw this year was the crop health between mulching and no mulching. Where we have been mulching for 8 years the soils look healthier, have a good texture and this helped to improve the crop health, as you can see in the photo (Mulching on the left. No mulching on the right).
The bible teaches us to be faithful with what we have and one of the Foundations for Farming management principles is ‘No Wastage’. Here at the enterprise station, we exhibited how to make charcoal out of maize cobbs that are unfortunately just burned when harvested traditionally. Here they can still be made useful and can be even used as charcoal. It is more environmentally friendly as we do not have to chop down our trees. Here is a video explaining how it is made. Please watch the video.
Pigeon pea is a wonderful plant. Not only is it a perennial cover crop, protecting our soil through the dry season, its leaves are high in nitrogen and can be used as topdressing, by burying a handful of leaves next to the maize plant. The maize on our demo plot responded well to the application of pigeon pea leaves to the crop and has reduced our dependency on urea.
Cover crops are crops grown for the enrichment of the soil and another great way for farmers to farm with fertilizers. These crops are essentially grown to cover the soil rather than for the purpose of being harvested. Cover crops manage soil erosion, soil fertility, soil quality, water, weeds, pests, diseases. Cover crops can be planted/grown at difference times of the year, but best planted early in the rainy season to harness their full benefits in the soil. We have also grown cover crops in our orchards in between the trees utilizing the space. Red or black sunn hemp are great cover crops to try to start with, but we are also utilizing other crops such as white pigeon pea, red pigeon pea, jack beans, sunflower, sorghum, pearl millet, cow pea. As the rains were finishing, we also planted teff and buck wheat as these crops are very good to enrich your soils your farm during off season. Just leaving the weeds to grow does no help to improve the soil as much as we need.
Here we have a demo plot of how to set up a phumvudza orchard which has got a mixture of fruit trees spaced out correctly according to their size. A pfumvudza orchard consists of a variety of fruit trees that helps to improve food security. A variety of fruit trees also reduces disease risk. The importance of using mulch and compost is to prevent weeds, improve moisture and nutrients in the soil. It is possible to plant some crops in-between the trees, for example cash crops like chilies or cover crops to improve the soil and provide mulch for the trees.
For large fruit trees like Mango, Loquat, Lichi, Macadamia trees need a spacing of 5 meters between rows and 5 meters between trees. Medium trees such Guava, Avocado, Mulberry, Citrus (lemons, oranges, nartjies), Fig, Banana trees need a spacing of 3.5 meter between rows and 3.5 meters between trees. Small trees such as Pawpaw(papaya), Pomegranate and Peach trees need a spacing of 3.5 meters between rows and 2 meters between trees.
Pfumvudza plots are great for food security. We use conservation farming so there is no need to buy heavy machinery to work your fields. Luke 6:38 states ‘Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken to gather and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.’ The more you give to the soil the more you will get out of it. Pfumvudza plots give a chance for the poor to be able to have food security without needing to spend so much money on inputs but still have enough to eat.
A pfumvudza plot is equivalent to quarter lima which is one sixteenth of a hector. The area is a 16.8 x 39m plot that consists of 52 lines. Each line has 28 stations 60cm apart, consisting of 56 plants (two plants at each station) producing 56 cobs of maize. 56 big cobs of maize is enough to fill one 20-liter bucket which is enough to feed one family of six people for a week. Therefore, a family needs to plant 52 rows to get 52 buckets, one bucket for each week of the year.
The input requirements for maize include.
Lime: 21kg (or a sack of ash)
Basal fertilizer: 12.5kg D compound and/or 20 buckets of compost
Top dressing: 10kg Urea
The input requirements for soya include.
Lime 21kg (or a sack of ash)
Basal fertilizer: 8kg