Is it going to rain today? This has been a common question around the center lately as the clouds are beginning to build up in the afternoons. Most days, the answer is no, but more and more often we are getting a nice rain in the evening. This rain makes us all anxious to begin planting.
The staple field has been prepped with permanent planting beds, dairy cow manure from the neighboring farm and Jatropha seedcake (for more info on that please see http://www.berl.biz/bio-fertilizer.aspx) provided by BERL, a biofuel company in Malawi.
Planting began on Monday and will most likely continue for the next 2 weeks. Instead of planting a monoculture of maize, we planted soya, cassava, pigeon pea, tephrosia and maize all in the same bed. With a proper crop rotation and intercropping plan we should be able to essentially grow our own fertilizer. We may still need some outside resources the next few growing seasons, but the hope is to make this field an appropriate demonstration for any Malawian farmer.
Our field is split into 4 sections, all of which have a different set of crops. These include: groundnuts, millet, sorghum, beans, pumpkin, cucumber, tephrosia, pigeon pea, soya and sweet potato. This will allow us to design a 4-year rotation where legumes, green manures and staple crops are grown in succession to increase yields while also conserving and improving the soil resource.
Referring to soil conservation, my favorite Soil Science Professor, Dr. Ron Hensler used to sing “Keep it covered all the time, live is better than dead.” And that is what we intend to do with green manures, cover crops and mulches.