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Get in the picture July 17th, 2022 by

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

For over 100 years, anthropologists have used a technique called ‚Äúparticipant observation‚ÄĚ to figure out what life is really like in small communities. From the Trobriand Islands to New Mexico, this has been the gold standard of ethnographic research. In the past few years, development workers have been trying to use the method, often misunderstanding it, for example, brief encounters in workshops.

Using participant observation ideally means joining in what the people themselves are doing (gardening, dancing, holding ceremonies): observing all the while, and sooner or later taking notes. Then, by sleight of hand, the anthropologists write themselves out of the picture for the final draft.

As Paul said in a recent blog (Mother and calf), on filming assignments, he and I often stay behind the camera while Marcella films. Staying out of the shot often means not joining people in their activities, but recently we had the luxury of getting in the picture.

The students and teachers of the Tres de Mayo school in Huayllacayán, Huánuco, Peru, were planting a garden. They weren’t quite ready to plant it, since they had only reopened the school (following the Covid lockdown) two months earlier, and they had just devoted some energy to their agrobiodiversity fair, which we recently wrote about (A good school).

But by 8AM on 5 May, the students and teachers were busy digging up a large garden plot. Paul paced it out at 75 square meters (big enough for a suburban front lawn). One of the teachers, Mr. Serafín, sang little songs and shouted encouragement to the children. It takes a while to plant such a large garden, even with 20 people helping, so Paul and I decided we could help out, and we would be spread thin enough that Marcella could still manage to edit us out of the final footage for our video.

Paul and I both like to garden, so he grabbed a pick and began turning over the soil, getting a good work out. Paul looked like he was moving earth quickly. Then one of the dads joined, and without saying a word, Paul saw that with certain small movements of the pick, the work could be done faster and with less effort.

Another parent farmer picked up an Andean foot plow, and impressed Paul with the size of the chunks of earth he was rapidly breaking off from the dried crust of soil. Much of local knowledge is like this. It can only be appreciated by joining in. You can’t just talk about it, because you don’t always know what people mean until you work alongside them.

I pitched in, too. Later one of the teachers told me, ‚ÄúYou‚Äôre covered in dirt,‚ÄĚ as though reproaching a child. Country people know how to work all day without getting their clothes filthy.

Within two hours, the field had been prepared, and the cabbage, lettuce and broccoli had been planted and was being gently watered. The children had learned not only how to plant a garden, for self-sufficiency, and healthy eating, but they had also seen that the real experts were their own parents who knew better than the teachers or the visiting film crew.

When outsiders make rural people ‚Äúparticipate‚ÄĚ in unfamiliar activities (often involving writing or drawing), the locals can seem a bit uncomfortable. But when we take part in their activities, we can appreciate how competent these smallholders are.

Previous Agro-Insight blogs

The school garden

The chaquitaclla

Acknowledgements

The visit to Peru to film various farmer-to-farmer training videos, including this one with the 3 de Mayo school, was made possible with the kind support of the Collaborative Crop Research Program (CCRP) of the McKnight Foundation. Thanks to Dante Flores of the Instituto de Desarrollo y Medio Ambiente (IDMA) and to Aldo Cruz of the Centro de Investigaciones de Zonas √Āridas (CIZA) for introducing us to the community and for sharing their knowledge with us.

CUANDO TE METES EN LA FOTO

Jeff Bentley, 17 de julio del 2022

Durante m√°s de 100 a√Īos, los antrop√≥logos han usado una t√©cnica llamada “observaci√≥n participante” para averiguar c√≥mo es realmente la vida en las peque√Īas comunidades. Desde las Islas Trobriand hasta Nuevo M√©xico, √©sta ha sido la norma de oro de la investigaci√≥n etnogr√°fica. En los √ļltimos a√Īos, los expertos en el desarrollo han intentado usar el m√©todo, a menudo sin entenderlo, por ejemplo, invitando la gente local a talleres.

Usar la observación participante significa, idealmente, participar en lo que hace la gente (jardinería, bailes, celebración de ceremonias): observar todo el tiempo y, tarde o temprano, tomar notas. Luego, mágicamente los antropólogos se borran a sí mismos del texto final.

Como decía Paul en un blog reciente (Mother and calf), cuando trabajamos en la filmación de un video, él y yo solemos quedarnos detrás de la cámara mientras Marcella filma. Quedarse fuera de la toma a menudo significa no unirse a la gente en sus actividades, pero recientemente nos dimos el lujo de salir en la foto.

Los alumnos y profesores de la escuela Tres de Mayo de Huayllacay√°n, Hu√°nuco, Per√ļ, estaban sembrando un jard√≠n. No estaban del todo preparados para sembrarlo, ya que s√≥lo hab√≠an reabierto el colegio (tras el cierre de Covid) dos meses antes, y acababan de dedicar algo de energ√≠a a su feria de agrobiodiversidad, sobre la que escribimos recientemente (Una buena escuela).

Pero a las 8 de la ma√Īana del 5 de mayo, los alumnos y los profesores estaban metidos a preparar un gran huerto. Paul lo calcul√≥ en 75 metros cuadrados (el tama√Īo de un c√©sped grande en un barrio caro). El profesor, el Sr. Seraf√≠n, cantaba peque√Īas canciones y animaba a los ni√Īos con gritos chistosos. Lleva un tiempo plantar un jard√≠n tan grande, incluso con 20 personas ayudando, as√≠ que Paul y yo decidimos que podr√≠amos ayudar, y que estar√≠amos lo suficientemente repartidos como para que Marcella a√ļn pudiera editarnos fuera de las im√°genes finales para nuestro v√≠deo.

A Paul y a m√≠ nos gusta la jardiner√≠a, as√≠ que √©l cogi√≥ una picota y empez√≥ a remover la tierra, haciendo un buen trabajo. Paul mov√≠a la tierra r√°pidamente. Entonces se uni√≥ uno de los padres, y sin decir una palabra, le qued√≥ claro a Paul que, con ciertos peque√Īos movimientos del pico, el trabajo se pod√≠a hacer m√°s r√°pido y con menos esfuerzo.

Otro padre agricultor cogi√≥ una chaquitaclla, e impresion√≥ a Paul con el tama√Īo de los trozos de tierra que desprend√≠a r√°pidamente de la superficie de tierra seca. Gran parte del conocimiento local es as√≠. S√≥lo se puede apreciar si se participa en √©l. No puedes limitarte a hablar de ello, porque no siempre sabes lo que la gente quiere decir hasta que trabajas con ellos.

Yo tambi√©n colabor√©. M√°s tarde, una de las profesoras me dijo: “Est√°s cubierto de tierra”, como si reprochara a un ni√Īo. La gente del campo sabe c√≥mo trabajar todo el d√≠a sin ensuciar completamente la ropa.

En dos horas, el huerto estaba preparado, y el repollo, la lechuga y el br√≥coli se hab√≠an sembrado y se estaban regando suavemente. Los ni√Īos no s√≥lo hab√≠an aprendido a sembrar un huerto, para ser autosuficientes y comer sano, sino que tambi√©n hab√≠an visto que los verdaderos expertos eran sus propios padres, que sab√≠an m√°s que los profesores o el equipo de filmaci√≥n.

Cuando los forasteros hacen que la poblaci√≥n rural local “participe” en actividades desconocidas (que a menudo implican escribir o dibujar), los lugare√Īos pueden parecer un poco inc√≥modos. Pero cuando nosotros participamos en sus actividades de ellos, llegamos a apreciar lo competentes que es la gente rural.

Antes en el blog de Agro-Insight

The school garden

La chaquitaclla

Agradecimiento

Nuestra visita al Per√ļ para filmar varios videos, incluso este con la escuela, fue posible gracias al generoso apoyo del Programa Colaborativo de Investigaci√≥n de Cultivos (CCRP) de la Fundaci√≥n McKnight. Gracias a Dante Flores del Instituto de Desarrollo y Medio Ambiente (IDMA) y a Aldo Cruz del Centro de Investigaciones de Zonas √Āridas (CIZA) por presentarnos a la comunidad y por compartir su conocimiento con nosotros.

The school garden May 15th, 2022 by

Nederlandse versie hieronder

Learning by doing is one of the most powerful educational approaches, both for adults and children. Kids observe what their parents and others in the community do, and they copy it.

For a week, Marcella, Jeff and I, accompanied by our local partners Aldo Cruz and Dante Flores, have been having our breakfast in the house of do√Īa Zenaida Ramos and her husband, who are also member of the parents‚Äô committee of the Tres de Mayo school in Huayllacay√°n, in central Peru.

As we walk to the school, which combines a kindergarten, primary and secondary school, we can see that activities on the playground have already started. Today is the final day of our filming trip in this community, and the school has planned the installation of a school garden: an activity they used to have prior to covid and which they are now more than happy to resume.

When we meet the dynamic and open-minded school director, Luz Valverde, she tells us: ‚ÄúHere in the district Huayllacay√°n more than 600 varieties of native potatoes are grown. And we have so many varieties of oca, olluca and mashwa, as well as plenty of medicinal plants. We also have broad beans and barley. So, the students should value all what we have here in our community. And they should also know how much nutritional value these products have, so they can keep conserving them. They should conserve our environment, conserve the local biodiversity that exists here.‚ÄĚ

Some of the teachers and pupils of the final year primary school have started loosening the hard soil and breaking the clods with picks, and we decide to give them a helping hand. It is hard work and at an altitude of 3,000 meters we often have to pause grasping for our breath. Some 15 minutes later, also various mothers and fathers have joined. You can immediately see how experienced they are doing this type of work. And so do the kids. The boy next to me carefully observes how one of the dads is handling the tool and then soon resumes with regained insights and energy.

Some other farmers have arrived with their Andean foot plough or chaquitaclla in the local language Quechua. This pre-Inca tool is still widely used and considered the best tool for preparing land on steep rocky slopes without causing soil erosion. When I see the tool in use on the flat playground of the school, I am amazed how fast it loosens up big clods of soil.

Within an hour we have prepared the garden plot, stretching 25 meters long and 3 meters wide. As we work the last few meters, one of the fathers stops me and tries to make it clear to me, in Spanish that I have to work the land differently here. I hadn’t noticed, but the tail end of the plot slightly slants downward, so we need to make the planting ridges perpendicular to the other ones, so that the irrigation water can easily move and cover the entire plot. This shows how farmers think ahead in everything they do. While I was just preparing the soil, he was already thinking about irrigation.

After being shown how to plant, the kids soon start planting onions, lettuce, broccoli and cabbage seedlings. The parents assist, observe their kids, and at times give them some advice. Later on, they will add some of the native crops.

By 10 o’clock the work is over. At one side of the school garden, the kids install a netted fence to protect the food garden when they play on the playground. As they fix the long green net with pieces of metal wire to wooden poles, previously inserted in the soil by the teachers; it is great to see how handy these kids are: it is clearly not the first time that they have handled all these tools.

School gardens have been around for many years and in many countries, as a way for students to learn about farming, and to provide healthy ingredients for school meals, free of agrochemicals. What is unique here, is that many parent farmers helped to install the garden, so the kids learn by observing their parents in a school context. Perhaps the most important is that the kids feel that the culture of their parents is being appreciated by a formal institution. All too often children are taught to look down on their own indigenous culture and on local customs and knowledge.

“I think that school directors across the world who work as leaders should include everyone in our educational community, so that everything we have around us is valued, concludes Luz Valverde in her interview.

Watch the upcoming video on the Access Agriculture video platform:
Teaching agroecology in schools

Related Agro-Insight blogs

Farming as a lifestyle

Videos to teach kids good attitudes

The dialect devil

Teaching the farmers of tomorrow with videos

Acknowledgements

The visit to Peru to film various farmer-to-farmer training videos was made possible with the kind support of the Collaborative Crop Research Program (CCRP) of the McKnight Foundation. Thanks to the school director Luz Valverde, faculty, students and parents of School No. 32677, Tres de Mayo de Huayllacay√°n, to Aldo Cruz ‚Äď Centro de Investigaciones de Zonas √Āridas (CIZA) and Dante Flores ‚Äď Instituto de Desarrollo y Medio Ambiente (IDMA) for supporting our field work.

Videos on how to improve livestock

See the many training videos on agroecology hosted on the Access Agriculture video platform.

 

De schooltuin

Leren door te doen is een van de krachtigste educatieve benaderingen, zowel voor volwassenen als voor kinderen. Kinderen observeren wat hun ouders en anderen in de gemeenschap doen, en ze kopi√ęren het.

Een week lang hebben Marcella, Jeff en ik, vergezeld door onze lokale partners Aldo Cruz en Dante Flores, ons ontbijt genuttigd in het huis van do√Īa Zenaida Ramos en haar man, die ook lid zijn van het oudercomit√© van de Tres de Mayo school in Huayllacay√°n, in centraal Peru.

Als we naar de school lopen, die een kleuterschool, lagere school en middelbare school combineert, zien we dat de activiteiten op de speelplaats al begonnen zijn. Vandaag is de laatste dag van onze filmtrip in deze gemeenschap, en de school heeft de installatie van een schooltuin gepland: een activiteit die ze vóór covid hadden en die ze nu graag willen hervatten.

Wanneer we de dynamische en ruimdenkende schooldirectrice, Luz Valverde, ontmoeten, vertelt ze ons: “Hier in het district Huayllacay√°n worden meer dan 600 soorten inheemse aardappelen geteeld. En we hebben zo veel vari√ęteiten van oca, olluca en mashwa, evenals tal van medicinale planten. We hebben ook tuinbonen en gerst. Dus, de studenten moeten waarderen wat we hier allemaal hebben in onze gemeenschap. En ze moeten ook weten hoeveel voedingswaarde deze producten hebben, zodat ze ze kunnen blijven behouden. Ze zouden ons milieu moeten beschermen, de lokale biodiversiteit die hier bestaat.”

Enkele leerkrachten en leerlingen van de laatstejaars lagere school zijn begonnen de harde grond los te werken en de kluiten te breken met pikhouwelen, en wij besluiten hen een handje te helpen. Het is hard werken en op een hoogte van 3.000 meter moeten we vaak naar adem happen. Zo’n 15 minuten later zijn er ook verschillende moeders en vaders bijgekomen. Je ziet meteen hoe ervaren ze zijn met dit soort werk. En dat geldt ook voor de kinderen. Het jongetje naast mij kijkt aandachtig toe hoe een van de vaders met het gereedschap omgaat en hervat dan al gauw met hervonden inzicht en energie.

Enkele andere boeren zijn aangekomen met hun Andes-voetenploeg of chaquitaclla in de lokale taal Quechua. Dit pre-Inca werktuig wordt nog steeds veel gebruikt en wordt beschouwd als het beste werktuig om land voor te bereiden op steile rotsachtige hellingen zonder bodemerosie te veroorzaken. Als ik het werktuig in gebruik zie op de vlakke speelplaats van de school, ben ik verbaasd hoe snel het grote kluiten grond losmaakt.

Binnen een uur hebben we een stuk grond van 25 meter lang en 3 meter breed klaargemaakt. Terwijl we de laatste meters afwerken, houdt een van de vaders me tegen en probeert me in het Spaans duidelijk te maken dat ik het land hier anders moet bewerken. Ik had het niet gemerkt, maar het einde van het perceel loopt iets schuin naar beneden, dus we moeten de plantruggen loodrecht op de andere maken, zodat het irrigatiewater zich gemakkelijk kan verplaatsen en het hele perceel kan bedekken. Dit toont aan hoe boeren vooruit denken bij alles wat ze doen. Terwijl ik gewoon de grond aan het voorbereiden was, dacht hij al na over irrigatie.

Nadat ze hebben geleerd hoe ze moeten planten, beginnen de kinderen al snel met het planten van uien, sla, broccoli en koolzaailingen. De ouders helpen mee, observeren hun kinderen, en geven soms wat advies. Later zullen ze er enkele inheemse gewassen aan toevoegen.

Tegen 10 uur is het werk voorbij. Aan de ene kant van de schooltuin plaatsen de kinderen een omheining van netten om de voedseltuin te beschermen als ze op de speelplaats spelen. Terwijl ze het lange groene net met stukken metaaldraad vastmaken aan houten palen die eerder door de leraren in de grond zijn gestoken, is het geweldig om te zien hoe handig deze kinderen zijn: het is duidelijk niet de eerste keer dat ze al dit gereedschap hanteren.

Schooltuinen bestaan al vele jaren en in vele landen, als een manier om leerlingen te leren over landbouw en om gezonde ingredi√ęnten te leveren voor schoolmaaltijden, vrij van landbouwchemicali√ęn. Wat hier uniek is, is dat veel ouderboeren hebben geholpen bij de aanleg van de tuin, zodat de kinderen leren door hun ouders te observeren in een schoolcontext. Het belangrijkste is misschien wel dat de kinderen het gevoel hebben dat de cultuur van hun ouders wordt gewaardeerd door een formele instelling. Al te vaak wordt kinderen geleerd neer te kijken op hun eigen inheemse cultuur en op plaatselijke gebruiken en kennis.

“Ik denk dat schooldirecteuren over de hele wereld die als leiders werken, iedereen in onze onderwijsgemeenschap moeten opnemen, zodat alles wat we om ons heen hebben wordt gewaardeerd, concludeert Luz Valverde in haar interview.

Sowing experiments April 24th, 2022 by

For nearly a century, from 1839 to 1924, the US government distributed free seeds to any citizen who wanted them. As told in First the Seed, by Jack Kloppenburg, seeds of field crops, vegetables and even flowers were sourced from around the world (often by the US Navy). The seed was multiplied in the USA, and mailed through the post by members of Congress to their constituents. The program was wildly popular and by 1861, the first year of the American Civil War, almost two and a half million seed packages (each with five packets of seed) were being shipped each year to farmers and gardeners.

As Kloppenburg explains, given the botanical knowledge of the time, and the limited ability of formal agricultural research in the United States, the free seed for farmers ‚Äúwas the most efficient means of developing adapted and improved crop varieties.‚ÄĚ

I recently saw a little window into this seed program. On 7 April 2022, The Times-Independent (a newspaper in Moab, Utah), published a replica of their page one from exactly 100 years earlier. One short story, ‚ÄúSeeds Go Quickly‚ÄĚ showed just how much people loved free seed. The little story reads:


SEEDS GO QUICKLY

In last Thursday’s issue, The Times-Independent announced that a quantity of government seeds had been received by this office for distribution to the people of Moab, and inviting those who wanted some of the seeds to call for them. Within a few minutes after the paper was delivered to the post office, local people commenced to call for the seeds, and there was a continuous demand until the supply was entirely exhausted.


I hadn‚Äôt realized that newspapers also helped to distribute the seed. In 1922, Moab‚Äôs local newspaper did not bother telling its readers what the ‚Äúgovernment seed‚ÄĚ was. They knew it well, even though today the program is forgotten. Kloppenburg says that the government seed was not only free, but of high quality, better than what private companies were then able to supply. This partly explains the rush of townspeople clamoring seed at The Times-Independent office, but farmers‚Äô love of innovation was also a reason for the excitement. The farmers and gardeners who swung open the glass door of the newspaper office didn‚Äôt know what kind of seed was in the little packages. There was some mystery there: each package contained several packets of different seed. Each packet was just a handful of seed, enough to try out, but not enough to plant a field.

The free seed sparked thousands of farmer experiments over decades, which formed the basis of modern, North American agriculture.

The development of the adapted base of germplasm on which American agriculture was raised is the product of thousands of experiments by thousands of farmers committing millions of hours of labor in thousands of diverse ecological niches over a period of many decades.

Jack Kloppenburg, First the Seed, page 56

In the early 1800s seed companies were small, but they were growing. By 1883 these companies organized as the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) and immediately began to lobby against government seed. Free seed was so popular that it took ASTA forty years, until 1924, to finally convince Congress to kill the program, at the height of its popularity.

Since 1922, companies have largely wrested control of seed from farmers, who once produced and exchanged all of the seed of field crops. It’s worth remembering that small gifts of seed sparked farmer experiments that shaped American agriculture.

Further reading

Kloppenburg, Jack Ralph, Jr. 1990 First the Seed: The Political Economy of Plant Biotechnology, 1492-2000. Cambridge University Press.

Related Agro-Insight blogs

The times they are a changing

Remembering an American king

Dick’s Ice box

Videos on using your own seed

Farmers’ rights to seed: experiences from Guatemala

Farmers’ rights to seed – Malawi

Succeed with seeds

Maintaining varietal purity of sesame

Harvesting and storing soya bean seed

Storing cowpea seed

Well dried seed is good seed

Rice seed preservation

More insects, fewer pests February 20th, 2022 by

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

It’s one of the great secrets of ecology that few insect species are pests. Most insects help us, by pollinating our crops, making honey, or silk and by killing pest insects, either by hunting them or by parasitizing them. I was in Ecuador recently with Paul and Marcella from Agro-Insight, along with Ecuadorian colleagues Carmen Castillo, Mayra Coro and Diego Mina, to make a video on the insects that help us.

Our first stop was the home of Emma Rom√°n and her husband, Luis Plazarte, in Al√°quez, a parish near the city of Latacunga, in the central Andes. On a small field behind their house, Emma explained that all flowering plants (trees, ornamentals or crops) attract insects, which feed on the pollen and nectar in the flowers. She has seen many beneficial insects: the bee fly, and the hairy fly, beetles (like the lady bird beetle), and true bugs. She adds ‚ÄúAnd there is a new one, the soldier fly.‚ÄĚ

I was puzzled about new insect. Perhaps an introduced one? Then I realized that since do√Īa Emma has received training in insect ecology from Mayra and Diego, and has planted more flowering plants, she has begun to notice more kinds of insects, which are also becoming more abundant, because of the flowers she plants. For example, she planted a row of lantana flowers to mark the boundary of her field. On the ground nearby, she pointed out some tiny spiders which we had not even noticed. ‚ÄúYou can see this one is carrying her eggs with her,‚ÄĚ she said, pointing to a whitish spider the size of a grain of rice. The family‚Äôs small field of oats is surrounded by pullilli shrubs, and other plants like chilca and the Andean cherry, which are visited by pollinating insects and others attracted by the plants‚Äô flowers.

As do√Īa Emma‚Äôs farm becomes insect-friendly, she notices more helpful insects. The larva of the bee fly hunts and eats small, soft insects. The hairy fly lays its eggs in other insects. The hairy fly larva hatches inside the victim, eating it from the inside out. That‚Äôs why do√Īa Emma has few pests, even as she has more insects.

For do√Īa Emma the big advantage is that she can produce maize, blackberries, and several kinds of vegetables with no pesticides. She says this means that she has tastier food that is healthier for her and for her family. And the diverse flowers around her house give her a sense of tranquility and harmony.

As do√Īa Emma put it, ‚ÄúWe plant a variety of plants for all kinds of insects, so that all the birds come, and they help us to conserve this ecosystem ‚Ķ to teach our children that there are these good insects and birds.‚ÄĚ

Scientific names

Pullilli (familia Solanaceae)

Chilca is Baccharis latifolia

The Andean Cherry (Spanish: capulí) is Prunus serotina

The bee fly (Spanish: moscabeja) is Eristalis spp. (Syrphidae)

The hairy fly is the family Tachinidae.

The soldier fly (Spanish: mosca sapito) is Hedriodiscus spp.

Related video

The wasp that protects our crops

Acknowledgements

Thanks to Diego Mina and Mayra Coro for introducing us to do√Īa Emma, and for identifying the plants and insects. Thanks also to Mayra and Diego for their valuable comments on a previous version of this blog. Diego and Mayra work for IRD (Institut de Recherche pour le D√©veloppement). Our work was funded by the McKnight Foundation‚Äôs Collaborative Crop Research Program (CCRP)

M√ĀS INSECTOS, MENOS PLAGAS

Por Jeff Bentley, 20 de febrero del 2022

Uno de los grandes secretos de la ecología es que pocas especies de insectos son plagas. La mayoría de los insectos nos ayudan polinizando nuestros cultivos, haciendo miel y matando a los insectos plaga, ya sea cazándolos o parasitándolos. Hace poco estuve en Ecuador con Paul y Marcella, de Agro-Insight, y los colegas ecuatorianos Carmen Castillo, Mayra Coro y Diego Mina, para hacer un video sobre los insectos que nos ayudan.

Primero, visitamos la casa de Emma Rom√°n y su marido, Luis Plazarte, en Al√°quez, una parroquia cercana a la ciudad de Latacunga, en los Andes centrales. En un peque√Īo sembr√≠o detr√°s de su casa, do√Īa Emma nos explic√≥ que todas las plantas con flores (√°rboles, plantas ornamentales o cultivos) atraen a los insectos, que se alimentan del polen y n√©ctar. Ella ha visto muchos insectos que le ayudan: la moscabeja, la mosca peluda y escarabajos (como la mariquita) y algunos de los chinches. Y a√Īade: “Y hay uno nuevo, la mosca sapito”.

Me qued√© perplejo ante la idea de un nuevo insecto. ¬ŅQuiz√°s uno introducido? Entonces me di cuenta de que desde que do√Īa Emma ha recibido capacitaci√≥n en la ecolog√≠a de los insectos de parte de Mayra y Diego, y ha plantado m√°s plantas con flores, ella ha empezado a fijarse en m√°s tipos de insectos. Por ejemplo, tambi√©n plant√≥ una hilera de flores de lantana para marcar el l√≠mite de su campo. En el suelo, debajo de los arbustos, se√Īala unas ara√Īas diminutas en las que no hab√≠amos reparado. “Puedes ver que esta lleva sus huevos”, dice, se√Īalando una ara√Īa blanquecina del tama√Īo de un grano de arroz. Su peque√Īo campo de avena est√° rodeado de arbustos de pullilli, chilca y capul√≠ a donde llegan los insectos polinizadores, y adem√°s otros insectos son atra√≠dos por las flores de estas plantas.

A medida que la granja de do√Īa Emma se convierte en un lugar acogedor para los insectos, se da cuenta de que hay m√°s insectos √ļtiles. La larva de la mosca abeja caza y come insectos peque√Īos y blandos. Mientras que la mosca peluda pone sus huevos dentro de otros insectos, y las larvas de la mosca peluda nacen dentro de la v√≠ctima, comi√©ndola de adentro hacia afuera. Por eso do√Īa Emma tiene pocas plagas, aunque tenga m√°s insectos.

Para do√Īa Emma, la gran ventaja es que puede producir ma√≠z, moras y varios tipos de hortalizas sin plaguicidas. Dice que esto significa que tiene alimentos m√°s sabrosos y saludables para ella y su familia. Y las diversas flores que rodean su casa le dan una sensaci√≥n de tranquilidad y armon√≠a.

Como dice do√Īa Emma: ‚ÄúSembramos variedades de plantas para que todo insecto, todo p√°jaro venga, y est√© all√≠, nos ayudan a conservar este ecosistema, la naturaleza que es bien bonita para nosotros, para ense√Īar a nuestros hijos que tales insectos hay, tales p√°jaros existen.‚ÄĚ

Nombres científicos

Pullilli (familia Solanaceae)

Chilca es Baccharis latifolia

Capulí es Prunus serotina

La moscabeja es Eristalis spp. (Syrphidae)

La mosca peluda es familia Tachinidae.

La mosca sapito es Hedriodiscus spp.

Video relacionado

La avispa que protege nuestros cultivos

Agradecimientos

Gracias a Diego Mina y Mayra Coro por presentarnos a do√Īa Emma, y por identificar las plantas e insectos. Gracias a Mayra y Diego por sus valiosos comentarios sobre una versi√≥n previa de este blog. Diego y Mayra trabajan para IRD (Institut de Recherche pour le D√©veloppement). Nuestro trabajo fue financiado por Programa Colaborativo de Investigaci√≥n de Cultivos (CCRP) de la Fundaci√≥n McKnight.

 

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.

Related Agro-Insight blogs

Capturing carbon in our soils

Community and microbes

Experimenting with intercrops

Living Soil: A film review

Reviving soils

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.

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