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HuŐągelkultur January 9th, 2022 by

Nederlandse versie hieronder

HuŐągelkultur

In my previous blog ‚ÄúCapturing carbon in our soils‚ÄĚ I gave some examples of how to store carbon in a healthy, living soil by adding compost and mulch, reducing ploughing and using plants to create a permanent soil cover. But there is also a more direct way of adding carbon to the soil, a technique called h√ľgelkultur, a name which may not be the easiest to pronounce, but the concept is quite simple.

HuŐągelkultur is a German term meaning ‚Äúmound cultivation.‚ÄĚ In this method one builds garden beds using woody material, some nitrogen-rich material such as grass clippings or manure, and soil with compost arranged in long, tunnel-shaped mounds. The wood can be piled directly on top of the soil, or placed in dug out trenches. Depending on the size of the logs or branches that form the core of the mound, the wood can take 10 to 15 years to completely decompose. Over the years, your soil life and soil structure improve.

A major benefit is that the beds enriched with organic matter hold water much better. As my wife Marcella and I used to frequently travel for longer periods for work, we were not always sure we would be at home to water our garden, so we figured this technique would suit us well. Especially since our soil is very sandy and does not retain water well. So, we started with our first h√ľgelbed some 3 years ago.

First we dug out a 10-meter long, one-meter wide trench to a depth of 40 cm. Then we cleaned up a lot of the old wooden logs and pruned branches of sick trees. We covered the branches with chunks of grass sod turned upside down, and finally we topped the bed up with the top soil and compost. The bed was about 1.2 meter high. We thought from now on, growing vegetables would be easier with less need for watering, but it turned out slightly differently.

As we had no clear idea yet what we would plant the first year, we decided to sow a mix of wild flowering plants to provide food for pollinators, such as bees, bumble bees, hover flies and butterflies. Within less than 2 months the bed was exploding with colours and the buzzing was a feast for the ears. This was a great idea, and it gave us some time to think through what vegetables and herbs we would plant the coming season, and how to arrange the crops on the bed.

After we installed the wood bed the next 2 summers were extremely dry, so even though we thought that we would experience the benefits of the raised bed starting in the second year, it turned out that we still needed to water it on a weekly basis. At first, I was puzzled that the buried wood was not holding water, but then I realized that on top of the wood we had deposited a double layer of grass sod (we just had too much of it). This had created a thick layer that roots of our tomatoes and other plants could not penetrate to reach the deeper parts of the bed where the moist wood was slowly decomposing.

Marcella also realized that planting on a slope is not as easy as the simplified drawings show on permaculture websites. Also, when watering the water readily flowed down the slope without having time to infiltrate. It looked like our soil structure was still not optimal even though the entire bed was covered with a mix of plants: both flowering wild ones and cultivated ones. To keep water from flowing down the slopes, Marcella often created small terraces to plant young seedlings. Improving soil structure takes time, and the need for continuous mulching became apparent.

Last winter I decided to make some extra wood beds to plant my different varieties of red current, goose berries, blue honeysuckle, raspberry and blackberries. Facing North-South to capture optimal sunlight, I set out to dig three trenches, each about one and a half meter apart. To boost the decomposition of the woody material, this time I decided to soak each layer of the beds with a solution of good microbes (effective microorganisms or EM) which I had prepared from local materials (see: Reviving soils).

The beds looked really nice and natural next to our little birch forest, but after two months the perennial grasses had already completely invaded the moist and nutrient-rich beds. As one learns by doing, I decided to use leftover tiles to make a border around the beds, to try to and keep the grasses out.

It takes time to find out what works best for you, and the future will tell us if these h√ľgelbeds will live up to our expectations. What may look easy and simple on paper often requires some some patience as one adapts the idea locally.

Read more

Q.L. Luo, C. Hentges, C. Wright. 2020. Sustainable Landscapes: Creating a H√ľgelkultur for Gardening with Stormwater Management Benefits. Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service. Click here.

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Inspiring knowledge platforms

Access Agriculture: https://www.accessagriculture.org is a specialised video platform with freely downloadable farmer training videos on ecological farming with a focus on the Global South.

EcoAgtube: https://www.ecoagtube.org is the alternative to Youtube where anyone from across the globe can upload their own videos related to ecological farming and circular economy.

 

H√ľgelkultur

In mijn vorige blog “Koolstof vastleggen in onze bodems” gaf ik enkele voorbeelden van hoe koolstof kan worden opgeslagen in een gezonde, levende bodem door compost en mulch toe te voegen, minder te ploegen en planten te gebruiken om een permanente bodembedekking te cre√ęren. Maar er is ook een meer directe manier om koolstof aan de bodem toe te voegen, een techniek die h√ľgelkultur wordt genoemd, een naam die misschien niet de gemakkelijkste is om uit te spreken, maar het concept is vrij eenvoudig.

H√ľgelkultur is een Duitse term die ” heuvelteelt ” betekent. Bij deze methode bouwt men tuinbedden met houtachtig materiaal, wat stikstofrijk materiaal zoals grasmaaisel of mest, en grond met compost, gerangschikt in lange, tunnelvormige heuvels. Het hout kan direct op de grond worden gestapeld, of in uitgegraven greppels worden geplaatst. Afhankelijk van de grootte van de stammen of takken die de kern van de hoop vormen, kan het 10 tot 15 jaar duren voordat het hout volledig is afgebroken. In de loop der jaren verbetert het bodemleven en de bodemstructuur.

Een groot voordeel is dat de bedden die verrijkt zijn met organisch materiaal veel beter water vasthouden. Omdat mijn vrouw Marcella en ik vaak voor langere periodes op reis waren voor ons werk, waren we er niet altijd zeker van dat we thuis zouden zijn om onze tuin water te geven, dus dachten we dat deze techniek goed bij ons zou passen. Vooral omdat onze grond erg zanderig is en niet goed water vasthoudt. Zo’n 3 jaar geleden zijn we dus begonnen met ons eerste h√ľgelbed.

Eerst groeven we een sleuf van 10 meter lang en 1 meter breed tot een diepte van 40 cm. Daarna hebben we veel van de oude houten stammen en gesnoeide takken van zieke bomen opgeruimd. We bedekten de takken met omgedraaide graszoden en bedekten het bed met de bovenste laag aarde en compost. Het bed was ongeveer 1,2 meter hoog. We dachten dat het voortaan gemakkelijker zou zijn om groenten te kweken en minder water te moeten geven, maar dat pakte toch iets anders uit.

Omdat we nog geen duidelijk idee hadden wat we het eerste jaar zouden planten, besloten we een mix van wilde bloeiende planten te zaaien om voedsel te bieden aan bestuivers, zoals bijen, hommels, zweefvliegen en vlinders. In minder dan 2 maanden tijd was het bed een explosie van kleuren en het gezoem was een lust voor het oor. Dit was een geweldig idee, en het gaf ons wat tijd om na te denken over welke groenten en kruiden we het komende seizoen zouden planten, en hoe we de gewassen op het bed zouden rangschikken.

Nadat we het houten bed hadden ge√Įnstalleerd waren de volgende 2 zomers extreem droog, dus ook al dachten we dat we vanaf het tweede jaar de voordelen van het verhoogde bed zouden ervaren, het bleek dat we nog steeds wekelijks water moesten geven. Eerst was ik verbaasd dat het begraven hout geen water vasthield, maar toen realiseerde ik me dat we bovenop het hout een dubbele laag graszoden hadden gelegd (we hadden er gewoon te veel van). Hierdoor was een dikke laag ontstaan waar de wortels van onze tomaten en andere planten niet doorheen konden om de diepere delen van het bed te bereiken waar het vochtige hout langzaam aan het afbreken was.

Marcella realiseerde zich ook dat planten op een helling niet zo eenvoudig is als de vereenvoudigde tekeningen op permacultuur websites laten zien. Ook bij het bewateren stroomde het water gemakkelijk de helling af zonder tijd te hebben om te infiltreren. Het leek erop dat onze bodemstructuur nog steeds niet optimaal was, ook al was het hele bed bedekt met een mix van planten: zowel bloeiende wilde als gecultiveerde. Om te voorkomen dat het water langs de hellingen naar beneden stroomt, cre√ęerde Marcella vaak kleine terrassen om jonge zaailingen te planten. Het verbeteren van de bodemstructuur kost tijd, en de noodzaak van continu mulchen werd duidelijk.

Vorige winter besloot ik enkele extra houten bedden te maken om mijn verschillende vari√ęteiten van rode bessen, kruisbessen, honingbessen, frambozen en bramen te planten. Noord-zuid gericht om optimaal zonlicht op te vangen, begon ik met het graven van drie sleuven, elk ongeveer anderhalve meter uit elkaar. Om de afbraak van het houtachtige materiaal te stimuleren, besloot ik deze keer om elke laag van de bedden te doordrenken met een oplossing van goede microben (effectieve micro-organismen of EM) die ik had bereid uit plaatselijke materialen (zie blog: De bodem nieuw leven inblazen).

De bedden zagen er heel mooi en natuurlijk uit naast ons kleine berkenbosje, maar na twee maanden hadden de meerjarige grassen de vochtige en voedselrijke bedden al volledig ingenomen. Zoals je al doende leert, besloot ik om restjes tegels te gebruiken om een rand rond de bedden te maken, om te proberen de grassen buiten te houden.

Het kost tijd om uit te vinden wat voor jou het beste werkt, en de toekomst zal ons leren of deze h√ľgelbedden aan onze verwachtingen zullen voldoen. Wat er op papier gemakkelijk en eenvoudig uitziet, vergt vaak enig geduld naarmate men het idee ter plaatse aanpast.

Dung talk August 1st, 2021 by

Nowhere in the world do take people dung more seriously than in South Asia. For ages cow dung has been a valuable resource. In the countryside people collect fresh dung by hand, shape it into small balls and press it against the walls of houses to allow it to dry. Sometimes the dung balls are skewered onto one-meter long sticks. The dried dung is used as fuel to cook meals. In dryland areas where fuelwood is scarce, these dung sticks are especially important.

Dung is also used as fertilizer, and in India people prepare it in various ways. Sometimes they mix the dung with cow urine, chickpea flour, molasses and water and let it ferment for about a week to allow the microorganisms to multiply. Farmers use the solid or liquid preparations as a seed coating, to keep pests away and to help the seed to grow. Applied to crops as a fertilizer, the dung preparations also help to revive the soil. These and other traditional practices add organic matter to the soil while supporting a cover of vegetation year-round. This is increasingly seen as a way to achieve food security and cool our planet. The Community-Based Natural Farming Programme in Andhra Pradesh, India, has embraced these technologies and is promoting them to millions of smallholder farmers, setting an example to the world.

However, when sharing ideas between countries, sometimes deeply held practices need to be re-examined. As I mentioned in my previous blog it is important to understand the scientific principles underpinning technologies, so that farmers can then adapt these to their own context.

For example, a few years ago one of our Indian partners was developing a video on good microbes, and I insisted that he asked local experts if other dung could be used, not just from cows. A few weeks later he reported back that everyone had agreed, only cow dung should be used. Sheep or goat dung would be no good.

This set me thinking a lot. While we were still making that video, I was able to fix a meeting with Camilla Toulmin, former Director of the International Institute for Environment and Development. While her focus had been on policy research about agriculture, land, climate and livelihoods in dryland regions of Africa, I knew that her PhD research on natural resource management in Mali had touched on the use of manure. After an hour on skype, we had shared a lot of information, but were still unsure if sheep dung was as good a source of beneficial microbes as cow dung.

As I mulled over my conversation with Camilla, I kept thinking back to one time in a village in northern Ghana when we had screened a video about using animal manure in farming. A woman in the audience had asked, ‚ÄúWhy do you only show cow manure? Cows belong to men! As we women, do not have cows, but only sheep and goats, can we not do anything with this dung to fertilize our land?‚ÄĚ

That was a few years ago. Now that I have a few sheep of my own, and can try out things myself, I have some new insights. Microbes need food and water to grow. In dryland areas, or when animals graze on dry pasture, their droppings dry out pretty fast. The good micro-organisms in the dung may start to die. On lush vegetation, the droppings of my sheep are much larger than the typical small balls one imagines when thinking of sheep droppings. When I prepare my solution of good microbes I collect the dung when it is still fresh.

Indian farmers and experts may be right about cow dung being the most suitable resource in the drylands. Sheep droppings may just dry out too fast to keep the good microbes alive. But in the rainy season or in more humid countries, sheep dung may have lots of beneficial micro-organisms. And for women in northern Ghana, who don‚Äôt have cow dung, sheep and goat droppings may still add much needed nutrients to their soil. As soil microbiologist Walter Jehne said: ‚ÄúWe should promote the principles and not be dogmatic about it. If you only have reindeer, you may as well make organic manure from their dung, and do not need cow dung.‚ÄĚ

Communicating technologies to farmers cross-culturally requires that we move beyond time-honoured recipes. We need to understand the underlying principles and explain them as well as we can. There is gold in more than one type of dung.

Related blogs

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Inspiring platforms

Access Agriculture: hosts over 220 training videos in over 90 languages on a diversity of crops and livestock, sustainable soil and water management, basic food processing, etc. Each video describes underlying principles, as such encouraging people to experiment with new ideas.

EcoAgtube: a social media video platform where anyone from across the globe can upload their own videos related to natural farming and circular economy.

A lost Alpine agriculture January 10th, 2021 by

As more youth move to cities, in Africa, but also in South Asia and Latin America, development experts worry about the future of rural communities. So, we can learn a lesson by taking a glimpse at a region where most youth left agriculture some three generations ago.

An American anthropologist, Brien Meilleur, studied farming in Les Allues, a village in the French Alps, in the mid-1980s. Meilleur was especially well-qualified for the topic, as decades earlier, his own father had left Les Allues for the USA.

Meilleur interviewed elderly farmers at length about the days of their youth, roughly back in the 1940s. Now retired, they painted a picture of an agriculture in balance with nature, where farm families worked in synchrony. They had large cereal fields, divided into many individual plots. Each year they agreed upon a time to plow, and each household would plow their own small plot, within the big field. By plowing and planting at the same time they avoided trampling each other‚Äôs grain crop.  The big fields were on a three-year rotation, beginning with rye, then barley and finally fallow-plus-pulses.

Folks made wine and hard apple cider from fruit they grew themselves. They wintered cows, sheep and goats in stables, moving them in the spring to montagnettes, cabins above the hamlets where the families made their own cheese. Then every year on 11 June, in a grand procession, the whole village would move their livestock to the high Alpine pastures, with cowbells ringing and dogs barking. The animals would graze communally, on named pastures, moving uphill as summer progressed to ever-higher grazing, until they were brought back down on 14 September. Outside specialists were hired to come turn the milk into cheese, mostly a fine gruyere, which they sold.

Barnyard manure provided all the fertilizer the farms needed. To save on firewood, neighbors baked their bread on the same day in ovens in the hamlet square. About 80 or 90% of what people ate came from Les Allues itself. The roots of this rural economy went back to at least the 1300s, if not earlier. But, as Meilleur explains, this farming system had collapsed about 1950, at least in Les Allues. He mourns the loss of this way of life, and as I read his moving account, I couldn’t help but share in his sadness.

The collapse came about in part because of emigration. Young people were leaving Les Allues for the cities as early as the 19th century. But there were other reasons for abandoning agriculture. After the World War II, the villagers sold much of their farmland to the Méribel Ski Resort, established just above the highest of the village’s hamlets. There were now lots of jobs for local people, on the ski slopes, and in the busy hotels, shops and restaurants. The vacationers even visited the beautiful village in the summer, for golf, tennis and mountain biking, so there was employment year-round. The youth of Les Allues no longer had to leave home to find work; the jobs had come to them.

The old agricultural landscape changed quickly, as the pastures became pistes de ski, and the fields grew wild with brush. The livestock were sold off and the apple trees were strangled by mistletoe, as people abandoned a way of living that (in today’s jargon) was sustainable and carbon neutral, and the bedrock of their community.

It is easy to romanticize a healthy rural lifestyle, but the good old days had some rough times, too. The farmers of Les Allues managed erosion in their cereal fields by hand-carrying the earth from the bottom furrow to the top of the field every year, the most back-breaking soil conservation method I’ve ever heard of. For six weeks in July and August, people cut hay for six days a week from 5 AM to 10 PM, to feed their animals over the winter. To save on fuel, the families would spend winter evenings sitting in the barn, where the cows gave off enough heat to keep everyone warm. People ate meat once a week, maybe twice.

Given the amount of hard work, and the low pay, it is understandable that the young people of Les Allues left farming. It happened all over Europe. In England during the Industrial Revolution, many farm workers took factory jobs. While some moved to the cities, others commuted on the train, and stayed in their village (The Common Stream). Northern Portuguese farm laborers, who described their lives as ‚Äúmisery,‚ÄĚ did not have the options of working in industry or in tourism. So, after 1964 they left Portugal to take construction jobs in France. The farmers who remained bought tractors to replace their vanished workers.

Just as previous generations of rural Europeans sought paid work off farm, the youth in places like West Africa and South America are now moving to the cities, and quite quickly. Many development experts bemoan this mass migration, even though it is a pro-active way for young people to take their destiny into their own hands, especially if they attend university in the city, before looking for work.

If past experience is any guide, some of the young Africans and South Americans who are now moving to town would stay in their villages, if they could make a decent living, and if they had electricity and other amenities. Life in the countryside will have to provide people with opportunities, or many will simply pack up and leave.

Further reading

Meilleur, Brien A. 1986 Alluetain Ethnoecology and Traditional Economy: The Procurement and Production of Plant Resources in the Northern French Alps. Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Washington.

My own mentor, Bob Netting, wrote a classic ethnography of the Swiss Alps. Like Meilleur, Netting was also impressed with the ecological balance of traditional farming.

Netting, Robert McC. 1981 Balancing on an Alp: Ecological Change and Continuity in a Swiss Mountain Community. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

For the changes in Portuguese agriculture, see:

Bentley, Jeffery W. 1992 Today There Is No Misery: The Ethnography of Farming in Northwest Portugal. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.

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See this link for videos on business ideas for small farms.

Photo credits

Photos courtesy of Eric Boa.

Validating local knowledge July 26th, 2020 by

Vea la versi√≥n en espa√Īol a continuaci√≥n

Paul and I have written earlier stories in this blog about the yapuchiris, expert farmer-researcher-extensionists on the semi-arid, high plains of Bolivia. At 4000 meters above sea level (over 13,000 feet), seasoned farmers know how to observe plants and animals, clouds and stars, to predict the weather, especially to answer the Big Question on their minds: when will the rains start, so I can plant my crop?

All of the yapuchiris know some traditional ways of predicting the weather. Some yapuchiris also write their observations on a special chart they have designed with their agronomist colleagues at Prosuco, an organization in La Paz. The chart, called a Pachagrama, allows the yapuchiris to record the weather each day of the year, just by penciling in a few dots, so they can see if their predictions come true, and how the rains, frosts and hail affect their crops.

It can be daunting to prove the value of local knowledge, but it is worth trying.

Eleodoro Baldivieso is an agronomist with Prosuco, which has spent much of the past year studying the results of the Pachagrama weather-tracking charts. As he explained to me recently, Prosuco took four complete Pachagramas (each one filled out over seven years) containing 42 cases; each case is a field observed over a single season by one of the yapuchiris. Comparing the predicted weather with the recorded weather allowed Prosuco to see if the Pachagramas had helped to manage risk, mainly by planting a couple of weeks early, on time, or two weeks late.

Frost, hail and unpredictable rainfall are the three main weather risks to the potato and quinoa crops on the Altiplano. In October, a little rain falls, hopefully enough to plant a crop, followed by more rain in the following months. Average annual rainfall is only 800 mm (about 30 inches) in the northern Altiplano, and a dry year can destroy the crop.

For the 42 cases the study compared the yapuchiri’s judgement on the harvest (poor, regular, or good) with extreme weather events (like frost), and the planting date (early, middle or late) to see if variations in the planting date (based on weather predictions) helped to avoid losses and bring in a harvest.

The study found that crops planted two weeks apart can suffer damage at different growth stages of the plant. For example, problems with rainfall are especially risky soon after potatoes are planted, affecting crops planted early and mid-season. Frost is more of a risk for early potatoes at the start of the season, and for late potatoes when they are flowering. Hail is devastating when it falls as the mid and late planted potatoes are flowering.

The yapuchiris are often able to accurately predict frost, hail, and rainfall patterns months in advance. Scientific meteorology does a good job predicting such weather a few days away, but not several months in advance. When you plant your potatoes, modern forecasts cannot tell you what the weather will be like when the crop is flowering. Forecasting the weather in a challenging environment is helpful, at least some of the time. Planting two weeks early or two weeks late may help farmers take best advantage of the rain, but then expose the crop to frost or hail. Changing the planting dates can help farmers avoid one risk, but not another.

The weather is so complicated that risk can never be completely managed. And because scientific meteorology cannot predict hail and frost months in advance, local knowledge fills a void that science may never replace.

Previous blog stories

Cultivating pride in the Andes

To see the future

Predicting the weather

Watch the video

Recording the weather

Watch the presentation by Eleodoro Baldivieso (in Spanish)

http://andescdp.org/cdp16/seminarios/seminario_4_respondiendo_amenazas_productivas/yapuchiris_Prosuco

Acknowledgement

This work with weather is funded by the McKnight Foundation’s Collaborative Crop Research Program (CCRP). Francisco Condori, Luciano Mamani, Félix Yana and Santos Quispe are the yapuchiris who participated in this research. Thanks to Eleodoro Baldivieso, María Quispe, and Sonia Laura of Prosuco for reading and commenting on a previous version of this story. The first two photos are courtesy of Prosuco.

VALIDANDO LOS CONOCIMIENTOS LOCALES

Por Jeff Bentley

26 de julio del 2020

Paul y yo hemos escrito historias anteriores en este blog sobre los Yapuchiris, expertos agricultores-investigadores y extensionistas en el Altiplano semi√°rido boliviano. A los 4000 metros sobre el nivel del mar, los agricultores experimentados saben c√≥mo observar plantas y animales, nubes y estrellas para predecir el clima, especialmente para responder a la Gran Pregunta en sus mentes ¬Ņcu√°ndo comenzar√°n las lluvias para yo pueda sembrar mi chacra?

Todos los Yapuchiris conocen algunas formas tradicionales de predecir el tiempo. Algunos Yapuchiris tambi√©n apuntan sus observaciones en un cuadro especial que han dise√Īado con sus colegas, los ingenieros agr√≥nomos de Prosuco, una organizaci√≥n en La Paz. El cuadro, llamado Pachagrama, permite a los Yapuchiris registrar el tiempo cada d√≠a del a√Īo, con s√≥lo dibujar algunos puntos, para que puedan ver si sus predicciones se hagan realidad y como las lluvias, heladas y granizadas afectan sus cultivos.

Puede ser difícil comprobar ese conocimiento local, pero vale la pena intentarlo.

El Ing. Eleodoro Baldivieso, de Prosuco, ha pasado gran parte del a√Īo pasado estudiando los resultados de los Pachagramas. C√≥mo √©l me explic√≥ hace poco, Prosuco tom√≥ cuatro Pachagramas completos (de siete campa√Īas agr√≠colas) y 42 casos; cada caso es una parcela observada durante una campa√Īa por uno de los yapuchiris. El comparar el tiempo previsto con el tiempo registrado permiti√≥ a Prosuco ver si los Pachagramas hab√≠an ayudado a manejar el riesgo, principalmente mediante la siembra temprana (dos semanas antes), intermedia y tard√≠a (dos semanas despu√©s).

Las heladas, el granizo y la lluvia impredecible son los tres principales riesgos meteorol√≥gicos para los cultivos de papa y quinua en el Altiplano. En octubre cae un poco de lluvia, con la esperanza de que sea suficiente para sembrar un cultivo, seguida hasta marzo por m√°s lluvia. La precipitaci√≥n media anual es s√≥lo 800 mm en el Altiplano Norte, y un a√Īo seco puede destruir la cosecha, lo mismo que un a√Īo con mucha lluvia.

Para los 42 casos el estudio comparó la evaluación del Yapchiri de la cosecha (malo, regular, o bueno) con eventos extremos de tiempo (como heladas), con las fechas de siembra (temprano, mediano, o tarde) para ver si el variar la fecha de siembra (basado en el pronóstico del Yapuchiri) ayudó a evitar pérdidas y lograr una cosecha.

El estudio hall√≥ que los cultivos sembrados a dos semanas de diferencia pueden sufrir da√Īo en diferentes etapas de crecimiento da las plantas. Por ejemplo, los problemas con las lluvias son especialmente arriesgados poco despu√©s de la siembra de la papa, afectando m√°s a la siembra tempran, a principios y mediados de la temporada. Las heladas son m√°s riesgosas para las papas tempranas al comienzo de la temporada, y para las papas tard√≠as justo en la √©poca de floraci√≥n. El granizo es devastador para las siembras intermedias y tard√≠as, si la papa est√° en flor.

Los Yapuchiris a menudo son capaces de predecir con certeza las heladas, el granizo y los patrones de lluvia, con meses de antelaci√≥n. La meteorolog√≠a cient√≠fica a menudo puede predecir ese tiempo a unos pocos d√≠as, pero con meses de anticipaci√≥n. Cuando siembras tu papa, el pron√≥stico moderno no te puede decir c√≥mo ser√° el tiempo cuando tu cultivo est√° en flor. Pronosticar el tiempo en un entorno desafiante es √ļtil, al menos parte del tiempo. Sembrar dos semanas antes o dos semanas despu√©s puede ayudar a los agricultores a aprovechar mejor la lluvia, pero se expone el cultivo a las heladas o granizo, cuando es m√°s vulnerable. Cambiar las fechas de siembra puede ayudar a los agricultores a evitar uno de los riesgos, pero no siempre a todos.

El clima es tan complicado que el riesgo nunca puede ser manejado completamente. Y debido a que la meteorología científica no puede predecir el granizo y las heladas con meses de anticipación, el conocimiento local llena un vacío que la ciencia tal vez nunca reemplace.

Historias previas del blog

Cultivando orgullo en los Andes

Conocer el futuro

Prediciendo el clima

Ver el video

Hacer un registro del clima

Vea la presentaci√≥n por Eleodoro Baldivieso (en espa√Īol)

http://andescdp.org/cdp16/seminarios/seminario_4_respondiendo_amenazas_productivas/yapuchiris_Prosuco

Agradecimiento

Este trabajo con el clima es financiado por el Programa Colaborativo de Investigación sobre Cultivos (CCRP) de la Fundación McKnight. Francisco Condori, Luciano Mamani, Félix Yana y Santos Quispe son los Yapuchiris que participaron en esta investigación. Gracias a Eleodoro Baldivieso, María Quispe, y Sonia Laura de Prosuco por leer y hacer comentaros sobre una versión previa de esta historia. Las primeras dos fotos son cortesía de Prosuco.

Trying it yourself May 24th, 2020 by

Helping to write a script for a farmer training video on vermiwash triggered my interest in trying it out myself, as I began to wonder if ideas from tropical India could work in temperate Belgium.

As the video explains, vermiwash is the liquid that is collected after water passes through compost made by earthworms. It is rich in plant growth hormones, micro-nutrients like iron and zinc, and major nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. Vermiwash increases the number of beneficial micro-organisms in the soil and helps plants to grow healthy.

After showing the problem of declining soil health due to the overuse of agrochemicals, the video quickly moves on to some powerful, motivational interviews by some local farmers in Tamil Nadu, in southern India.

‚ÄúWhen you want to mix vermicompost with the soil, you need large quantities. But vermiwash can be applied directly to plant leaves, so you need less and you can see the effect on plant growth faster. It is also cheaper than compost,‚ÄĚ says farmer Sivamoorthi.

Besides the liquid vermiwash, I had also helped another of our Indian partners, WOTR, develop a video on vermicompost, which is solid, and stronger than normal compost . But, I was more attracted to the idea of making vermiwash, as it requires little space and I could easily use it as a foliar spray on my vegetables, berry shrubs and fruit trees.

At the local hardware store, I bought a barrel with a tap at the bottom. The first drafts of the script mentioned that it is best to fill the bottom of the barrel with small stones, so the tap doesn‚Äôt get blocked. I did exactly that. In the final version of the video, this part was removed. When I asked Shanmuga Priya, who made this video, she said: ‚ÄúAfter I talked to farmers it seems no one is doing this, because after three months they empty the barrel, remove the earthworms and then put the compost on their field. Of course, they don‚Äôt want stones to be mixed with the compost.‚ÄĚ

Indian farmers just use a small piece of mosquito netting or cotton cloth as a filter. Right, that was a good lesson; farmers always find a way to improve any technique they learn from extension staff. I still have the bottom of my barrel filled with pebbles, and so far so good. I will have to make the extra effort of sorting out the stones when setting up a new batch of vermiwash.

The video says to fill the bottom with some 10-15 centimetres of dried leaves, not green ones, which would slow down decomposition. As I had plenty of dried oak leaves, and even though they decompose slowly, I wondered if they would work, but hey, that’s what I have, so that’s what I will try.

Then the video shows how an equal amount of rice straw is added. Instead, I used wheat straw, as I still have plenty of bundles in the attic of our shed.

The next part was also a little tricky. While the video suggested using 5 to 10 kg of decomposed cow dung, I wondered if the dung of my sheep would work just as well. It was a discussion I had had several times with Indian partners, who always say that only cow dung is a useful source of beneficial microorganisms. I asked a friend of mine, who is soil scientist, and still did not get a clear answer to this. Soil scientists are trained more in the physical and chemical properties of soil and are less familiar with its complex biology. But that is food for another blog story.

After adding some water to the barrel, I collected a few handfuls of earthworms from my compost and put them into the barrel. I would soon see if my set up would work or not. While farmers in India can collect vermiwash after just 10 days, I realised that the early days of spring in Belgium are still too cold, so the worms are not that active yet. Six weeks later, though, we happily collected our first litre of brown vermiwash.

After diluting it with ten litres of water, I sprayed the vermiwash on the leaves of my rhubarb as an experiment, before putting it on any other plants. In just a few days the leaves turned a shiny, dark green. The plants looked so healthy, that neighbours even remarked on it and asked what I had given them.

My wife, Marcella, had been rearing vegetable seedlings in a small glass house, and when the time came to transplant them to the garden, she decided to set up a small experiment. One batch of mustard leaf seedlings would be planted straight in the soil, the other batch she would soak the roots of the seedlings for 15 minutes in pure vermiwash. After all, the video shows that this works with rice seedlings, so why not with vegetable seedlings?

And again, the effect was striking: all of the seedlings dipped in the vermiwash took root quickly, while in the other batch only a fraction did.

As Jeff has written in some earlier blogs, the Covid-19 crisis has stopped people from travelling, affecting many farmers (see: Travelling farmers), students (see: A long walk home) and society at large. It has also forced people to creatively use their time. Like many other people, we have been able to spend more time in the garden, and in our case, we were able try out some of the things we learned from farmers in the global South.

As we tried oak leaves, wheat straw and sheep dung instead of the ingredients used by Indian farmers, we found that vermiwash works as well in Flanders as it does in Tamil Nadu. Good training videos inspire people to experiment with new ideas and adapt these to their own conditions. That is the philosophy and approach of Access Agriculture: using video as a global source of inspiration.

Related blogs

Earthworms from India to Bolivia

Encouraging microorganisms that improve the soil

Effective micro-organisms

Friendly germs

Related videos, freely downloadable from www.accessagriculture.org

Vermiwash: an organic tonic for crops

Making a vermicompost bed

Good microbes for plants and soil

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