Strip tillage and cover crops enhance soil quality in the southeast in the face of climate change In Brief: USDA scientists in Tifton, Georgia, are providing guidance to growers by showing that strip tillage and cover crops are important practices for reducing erosion from sandy soils in the southeastern United States and for enhancing soil quality. ASABE member Dinku Endale, an agricultural engineer with the USDA-ARS, and his colleagues ASABE member David Bosch, Thomas Potter, and Timothy Strickland compared surface runoff and sediment losses from two common tillage systems between 2000 and 2009, including years with severe drought and heavy rainfall. They collected runoff from fields rotated between peanut and cotton crops that were either conventionally tilled or strip tilled. Conventional tillage mixes all crop residue into the soil prior to planting, while strip tillage does so only in narrow 10 to 15 cm (4 to 6 in.) wide strips where the seeds are planted. The remaining area is left undisturbed so that the cover crop residue remains on the surface, providing protection from water and wind erosion. The researchers used rye as a winter cover crop to protect the soil, increase organic matter, and hold nutrients remaining from previous cropping seasons that otherwise might leach away. The results provided a clear picture of the advantages of strip tillage. About 20% of the rain on conventionally tilled fields was lost in surface runoff, compared with only 12% from the strip-tilled fields. The runoff from strip-tilled fields carried 87% less sediment than the runoff from conventionally tilled fields. Sediment losses exceeded the acceptable threshold for the soil in three of the ten years on the conventionally tilled fields, but they never exceeded the threshold on the strip-tilled fields. The ARS researchers also found that, with respect to reducing erosion and surface runoff, the benefits of strip tillage were enhanced with cover crops. The study comes at a critical time. The increased prevalence of herbicide-resistant weeds has prompted some farmers to revert from strip tillage to conventional tillage as a weed control strategy. Climate change is also expected to bring more intense rainstorms, which will increase runoff and soil erosion from farm fields. For more information, contact Dennis O’Brien, USDA-ARS Public Affairs Specialist, firstname.lastname@example.org. Collaboration between experts from the University of Florida and Kazakhstan benefits farmers of Kazakhstan’s Almaty region In Brief: A pilot project, called “The Farmers of Chilik,” was instituted to develop farming entrepreneurship and crop diversification aimed toward increasing farmers’ livelihoods in Almaty Oblast, Kazakhstan. ASABE member Brian Boman helped the farmers gain theoretical knowledge and practical skills with innovative agro techniques to improve their vegetable farming and business development practices. The project participants are now familiar with an entire farming cycle—from planting seed to making crops more profitable. The project has been so successful that it garnered an American Chamber of Commerce award in Kazakhstan for the Most Innovative Education/Training Program and recognition from President Nursultan Nazarbayaev in the national media. Variety trials, irrigation management, and fertilization techniques recommended by Boman and a team of University of Florida professors were demonstrated at the Chilik Agribusiness Center and on four cooperating farms. The local team, consisting of an agronomist, marketing specialists, and students from the Kazakh National Agrarian University (KazNAU), carried out most of the day-to-day field activities and data collection. Farmers were encouraged to visit the demonstration plots and field trials during field days, a new and very successful concept for the area. As Boman, a professor of agricultural and biological engineering at the University of Florida, explained, “We have grown over 22 new tomato varieties and six pepper varieties of different sizes and ripening stages. Of the tomatoes, the most promising turned out to be three varieties that exhibited good compatibility with the climate, disease resistance, great yield, transportation tolerance, as well as demand by consumers. These tomato trials produced as much as 90 tons per hectare, compared to 15 to 20 tons per hectare for the average grower. Even the best growers typically don’t get more than 30 tons per hectare. Drip irrigation coupled with good fertilization, staking, and improved varieties were responsible for the high yields. Not everyone can adopt drip irrigation, but we showed that they can increase tomato production by up to 200% with just improved varieties and good fertilization in the fields.” In addition, Boman noted that three new varieties of peppers have shown promise for further expansion. “The recommended techniques raised the yields by 25% to 30%,” he said, “They also improved the look of the vegetables, and that appealed to consumers.” Ashir Mussayev, a local farmer, praised the project: “Thanks to ‘The Farmers of Chilik’ project, I obtained knowledge about new and affordable fertilizer technologies and vegetable maintenance techniques to apply during the ripening stage. Here in Chilik, for the past two years, we’ve had a functioning agribusiness center where we get assistance with soil analysis, microelements selection, fertilizers selection, and more. The center provides solutions for various farming challenges free of charge.” Fresh, good-quality vegetables were sold to supermarkets in the village of Almaty directly from the farmers. According to Raimbek Batalov, head of the Raimbek Group, a major company in Kazakhstan’s consumer economy, “From the very first days, vegetables from ‘The Farmers of Chilik’ were in great demand, and thus instead of the planned one ton per day, our supplies had to be increased to three tons per day. This project has matched another program that we have been implementing, called ‘Made in Kazakhstan.’ This is not just social responsibility, this is good business, and we are glad to be cooperating with the farmers. I hope that next year there will be more farmers participating in the program and a greater product assortment represented on our shelves.” “The Farmers of Chilik” project will continue into this year, and 20 farmers from the villages of Almaty Oblast will be able to take part in the project. “Having attained very promising preliminary results, we will be extending the project for the next season with more farmers,” said Bakytgul Yelchbayeva, executive director of the Local Community Fund of the Enbekshikazakh region. “The long-term aim is to replicate the project throughout the entire country by working with KazNAU. There is a memorandum of understanding in place for this cooperation. As before, the focus is going to be on small farm households but with larger areas for the recommended plant growth technique, from two to four decares of land last year up to one hectare this year.” A congratulatory press conference was held in honor of the project participants. “It was a very successful press conference and resulted in the akimat (governor) of Almaty Oblast pledging funds to put in drip irrigation demonstrations on five farms in the area—so now I have to hustle to get them designed and installed!” said Boman. For more information, contact Assel Akhmetova, Assel.Akhmetova@pmi.com, or Brian Boman, email@example.com. PICS bags helped farmers in Ebolastricken Sierra Leone In Brief: Triple-bag technology, created at Purdue University to help African smallholder farmers store their crops after harvest, enabled farmers in Sierra Leone to protect their seed when the Ebola outbreak disrupted agricultural markets. Purdue Improved Crop Storage, known as PICS, was designed specifically for farmers in west and central Africa to store cowpeas, also known as black-eyed peas, in hermetic triple-layer plastic bags for long periods after harvest so that the farmers can sell their crops when market prices increase months later. Without the bags, the farmers have to use often-ineffective insecticides or sell their crops immediately after harvest when market prices are lower. Purdue faculty members were part of an effort that extended the use of the PICS bags to storing seed when neither seed nor grain could be easily stored or sold because of the Ebola outbreak. “Some districts were under 100% quarantine, so the markets were disrupted,” noted Dieudonné Baributsa, an entomology research assistant professor who led the project at Purdue in partnership with Catholic Relief Services (CRS). The project involved developing a program to train farmers on how to use the bags for storing seed for planting and storing grain for home consumption. Some 10,000 PICS bags were imported into Sierra Leone for the project. About 3,700 farmers received bags and were trained with the help of a grant from CRS. The Purdue faculty and CRS staff members implemented training programs for extension agents and personnel from nongovernmental organizations. Training was conducted in small groups because of a ban on large gatherings when Sierra Leone was in its health emergency. Community awareness of the PICS program was created through radio programs and advertisements. Mobile phone videos were also used for training and to increase use of the bags in remote communities. “As a result, farmers are using the bags more and more to store their seed,” Baributsa said. “The bags are helping farmers in Sierra Leone protect their food and their seed and think more about the future as the country recovers from the Ebola outbreak,” said Corinne Alexander, a Purdue agricultural economist who was also involved in the project. Near year-end 2015, the World Health Organization declared Sierra Leone free of Ebola. “The PICS bags put farmers in charge in responding to disasters,” said Louise Sperling of CRS. “Rather than bringing in outside seed aid after the fact, the bags are preventative and help farmers save the seed that they know and trust.” A key finding was that seeds, primarily rice, maintained a high level of germination when stored in the bags. “It turns out the PICS bags are very effective for storing seed,” Sperling said. The triple bagging allows farmers to store a variety of major crops for more than a year after harvest. The technology helps improve food availability year-round and increase the income of smallholder farmers. After efforts under the initial PICS program, begun in 2007, on using the technology to store cowpeas, a second phase involved research into how the bags could be used to store other crops, such as maize. A third phase, developed in 2014, moved the PICS bags from research and applications for only one crop to commercialization involving multiple crops. For more information, contact Keith Robinson, Purdue Agricultural Communication Service Coordinator/News & Public Affairs, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published by ASABE. View All Articles.
This page can be found at http://bt.e-ditionsbyfry.com/article/Update/2411246/292220/article.html.