A message from our agronomist

IMPORTANCE OF LEAVING AND LAYING CROP RESIDUES OF PREVIOUS CROPS

Mubanga, S.C

Soil nutrition is very important in crop production if a farmer is to realise increased yields. Many times farmers bundle up their maize for easy harvesting and later forget to spread them around but rather burn them in readiness for the next season. This kind of practice poses a threat to the soil biodiversity; which contributes largely to the soil nutrition. If you have a good cover of your previous crop residues, you are improving your soil nutrition. The residues will become food to the termites which will help in the decomposition and this will result in a richer soil that can support plant growth more sustainably.

A good crop cover will also act as a shelter to the soil fauna. These covers also facilitate for an increased carbon to Nitrogen (C: N) ratio of organic residues, the C: N ratio is important because it influences the rate at which a residue is decomposed and the amount of Nitrogen recycled from the residues. It is important in compositing because the microorganisms require a good balance of C: N ratio from 25 to 35 in order to remain active. High C; N ratio can lead to prolonged compositing and low C: N ratio increases Nitrogen loss (Christos et al., 2017).

Crops take up nutrients and during their growth they tend to partition these nutrients to various parts of the plant. Therefore, when plant residues are removed or burnt, all the partitioned nutrients are lost. However, when these residues are retained in the fields, as the plants decompose, they add these nutrients and hence nourishing the soils. Different crops take up nutrients differently, some go deeper while others go shallower, and some take out more from the soils while others add and takeout less. Cereals like maize tend to take out more and quite deeper than legumes.

I wish to therefore, urge all farmers to think twice about burning and not leaving well spread out plant residues in the fields just after harvesting. A wise farmer is one who thinks sustainably; whose farming is a lifelong practise that not only sustains him/her now but many more generations ahead.

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MAIZE HARVESTING

The best moment for a farmer in his or her quest for crop production is harvesting time. Him/ her seeing the produce of what a single seed was initially having multiplied to 100s of grains. No person would be annoyed or disappointed with what was initially single and now over one hundred. But wait a minute, are you sure this is it; I have multiplied and here I am I will soon have a fat account, and well that’s it. I am sorry to disappoint you that that’s not it. Most farmers will be so excited about their harvest that they would easily forget about how much they had invested in their crop production, losses that they may incur during and after harvesting.

Farmers need to remember the following as they are harvesting their maize crop.

  1. Farming is a business – your aim is to maximize your profits and therefore, remember to cost every activity and record in order that you may determine whether your business is profitable or not

  2. Losses are not just caused by late planting, poor rains, poor soils, pest damage during crop life, weeds to mention but a few, but are also caused by human pests and miss handling of the crop during harvesting, such as poor supervision of the people harvesting, threshing, and winnowing. Losses can also be caused by high moisture content in the grains resulting in rot and thereby downgrading the quality of your product. To check for whether the moisture content is okay for storage or not, put the grains in a dry cola bottle and add some salt then shake thoroughly for 2 to 3 minutes and if the salt sticks to the walls of the bottle, then the moisture is still high. In that case, you may need to further dry your crop.

  3. Be aware of borers and weevils that cause damage to the grains. Any dust such as atelic gold dust at a rate of 50g/ 100kg of grain (please remember to read the label)

  4. Prevailing prices, it is a gamble sometimes to rush to sale your produce before the government price. It may or may not work to your advantage. When you decide to store, remember to include the cost of storage in your cost of production.

  5. Sustainability, if you are growing an open pollinated variety e.g., Oba Tampa or local varieties, remember to leave some for the next season and for your home consumption. A bag of maize meal may be more expensive than a bag of 50kg that you could have left for your mealy meal. So do not always sale everything. Bear in mind that if you grow a hybrid, it can never grow the next season, so concentrate on leaving some for your mealy meal rather than for your production. Also note that recycled seed doesn’t yield as much as its parent.

     Be a wise farmer and always remember that farming is a business and not a hobby!!!!

 

 

Best wishes as you harvest and admire your hard work.

 

 “Indeed, working hard pays off!!!!”

Mubanga, S.C

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Securing the future of farming in Zambia by
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Mechanised conservation agriculture on-farm
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Join us at AgriTech Expo Zambia, at the GART premises near
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Zambia has seen impacts of climate change across the entire country in recent years. The rain comes
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The complete list of exhibitors at AgriTech Expo Zambia can be found at - www.agritech-expo.com
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