The rains really came. Mid July it rained every day for almost a week and this put a damper (pun intended) on demonstration plot activities. For one, at the Week 2 mark, we were supposed to do the first round of fertilizer application on the farmer plot. Weeds were growing like crazy as we had not applied any kind of pre-emergence herbicide (for various reasons which I will not go into).
At Week 3, the farmers were thankfully willing to hand weed the demonstration plot despite the mud being terrible. But on the farmers’ plot, they wanted to spray, which I totally understand. So we had to wait for the soil to dry up a little. They applied the post-emergence (Arrow 72, a selective herbicide for maize) three days before we came to apply the second round of fertilizer on the demonstration plot. The weeds were just starting to turn color but I insisted we hand weed the farmers’ plot regardless – we had to get the first round of NPK applied as we were already two weeks behind schedule.
On the demo plot, we manually weeded one more time before applying the second round of fertilizer (same kind). And it was the same method as the first application: dibbling. One person walks along the rows with a stick about four centimeters in diameter, jabbing it into the ground a few centimeters next to each maize stalk. This is one of the improved techniques we are trying to demonstrate for better yields.
Most farmers sprinkle fertilizer at the base of each stalk, which has minimal effect as most nitrogen is destroyed by the sun, a lot gets washed away if it rains and little percolates through the soil to reach the roots.
What is interesting for my farmers is they know burying fertilizer is better, but when asked why they do not do it, they say it is too much work. This is mind boggling when you see the efforts made to create sweet potato and yam mounds. This is a clear example of how knowledge is not enough. What will convince them to start burying their fertilizer? I pleaded with them that next season, to try on a portion of their own land, burying the fertilizer and change nothing else, not even seed, just to see if that alone can make such a difference. I told them I would remember this and bug them about it! I honestly believe that this single difference will significantly improve their yields.
What does the picture below tell you?