The demonstration plot is only half way through as PAN53 takes 135-140 days to mature. Now we just wait. All the fertilizers have been applied:
-Three applications on the demo side at planting, 4 weeks and 6 weeks.
-Two applications on the farmers side, supposed to be at 2 weeks and 6 weeks.
And the maize heads seem to have appeared overnight. Now we let it mature and dry.
The main challenge this month was rain. Too much rain. You think we would be grateful but it rained hard and heavy, many times, flooding parts of the field that were not level, knocked over thin stalks and washed away fertilizer (at least on the farmer side).
But with these challenges also came the lessons:
1. The importance of land preparation. The fields should be level or at least have an outlet for excess water.
2. Seed variety and planting method are key. Majority of the stalks pushed down by rain and wind were on the farmers side, where not actual seed is used but grain instead. Poor ‘seed’ will mean poor germination and traits. The stalks from these grains are so thin and look more like millet stalks. Furthermore, two grains per hole were planted. This results in two stalks competing for already minimal nutrients in burned out soil.
3. Fertilizer must be buried. The difference between the plots is stark. The fertilizer that was buried can even be seen having an effect on the first few rows nearest the demo side. The nutrients beneath the surface clearly leached and affected those rows for the better. This shows the slight slope of the land and if buried fertilizer is leaching, imagine what happens to fertilizer sprinkled on the surface.
The demo side is not perfect by any means. It was on this side where ground was uneven and no matter how good the seed is, if it floods, it will destroy the crop (see image above). I wonder about the spacing too. When walking through the rows, some plants could not compete with the surrounding ones as those grew taller and leaves wider. Does spacing within rows need to be a little wider? It is currently at 25 cm within rows.
I found all kinds of wildlife in the plants too – beautiful crickets, frogs and snails. Every time wondering if one of them was a pest, if it was that insect making holes in the leaves. I am glad we did not have to use any pesticides though. There were reports of farms in the region being infested with a type of stem borer and I hope it does not reach my community in the next couple months.
Next report in October!