Agricultural Agronomist visits Elephants & Bees
Agricultural Agronomist visits Elephants & Bees Research Center in Sagalla.
blog by Gary Hamdorf Agriculture Agronomist – Australia.
Gary Hamdorf visited the Elephants & Bees Research Center in Sagalla from the 17th to 21st of August 2015, with the purpose of looking at ways of helping the local farmers by providing information on how to improve the health/quality of the soil and to increase crop yields. All with the aim of helping to improve the health and lives of the local community, and not just those living with beehive fences.
During his stay Gary looked at the soils typical of this area which he helped us to classify as a sandy-to-loamy sand soil, low in organic matter in the cultivated areas when compared to the higher organic matter found in the forested areas. It was also noted that the cultivated areas often had a hard pan at about 10-15cm which plant roots would not easily penetrate which the forested area did not. This hard pan was due to the soils in the cultivated area having poorer structure than the forested areas resulting in compaction of the cultivated soils.
Photo: (above) Samples of soils analysed from the farms showing very little organic matter in the soil
Photo: (below) Samples of soils analysed from outside the farms in the shrub/forest areas showed significantly more organic matter in the soil compared to the compacted soils in the farm land.
Based on this information and the crops typically grown in the area Gary, Joannah and Emanuel held some meetings with local farmers to discuss the benefits of organic matter and widening of crop rotations on improving crop yields in these sandy soils. They also discussed how to increase organic matter through not burning crop & weed residues plus with the additon of using animal manure as compost to improve yields, increase conservation of moisture in the soil, and reduce the effect of the hard pan.
The use of native plant species along borders of fields and in drainage channels was also discussed as a way of reducing wind/water erosion and allowing a reservoir of native predatory insects to allow for more natural control of pests in existing crops. The importance of these areas for attracting bees as pollinators to crops such as cow peas, pigeon peas, beans, tomatoes, melons, etc, was emphasised as vitally important for both successful yields and the beehive fences.
The basis of this discussion on maintaining native areas was to ensure that the natural biodiversity was maintained to ensure the long term stability and success of combined natural and agricultural ecosystems.
To help with the transmission of this information through out the community a simple booklet will be put together outlining the critical points discussed in the meetings with the local farmers.