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close this bookSPORE Bulletin of the CTA No. 40 (CTA Spore, 1992, 16 p.)
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Organic technologies from the Philippines

Trials have been conducted in the Philippines to find ways of improving crop yields through the use of organic fertilizers. The following are reports based on the results of three of the experiments.

Rapid composting and the use of compost as fertilizer

Researchers in the Philippines tested, in rice fields, composts generated from Trichoderma. They found that the treatment increased yields of rice, and reduced the need for chemical fertilizers.

Crop residues were thoroughly wetted, any woody parts were chopped and everything was piled loosely into a compost pen or raised platform. One or two handfuls of activator were broadcast on each 10-15cm thick layer of rice straw, animal manure and Leucaena leucocephala. The compost pile was then covered with plastic sacks, banana or coconut leaves. The pile was moistened periodically and turned at least once, particularly when there were woody substrates. After 3-5 weeks the compost was already ripe, with a low temperature in an layers the substrates were brown to black and soily. A half-rate dose of inorganic fertilizer was applied as a side-dressing. At the end of the trial year, yield increases were up to 16%.

Using Azospirillum for maize production

Azospirillum bacteria isolated from the roots of talahib grass can supplement the nitrogen fertilizer requirement of maize. Before planting, maize seeds were inoculated with Azospirillum and then sown at a distance of 25m between hills in ground that had been ploughed, harrowed and had basal fertilizer applied to it. The plants were then hand-weeded, thinned, sprayed with pesticide and side-dressed with fertilizer.

Azospirillum-inoculated maize plants were found consistently to grow taller and greener compared to uninoculated plants. yields were also higher than uninoculated plants and responded favourably to different fertilizer levels. Inoculated maize fertilized with 30-0-0 NPK gave the highest return on investment (142%).

Response of maize to the inoculant was affected by the inoculant concentration, type and fertility of the soil and the season. The inoculant was effective if roots were colonized with 100,000 to 1,000,000 cells of Azospirillum per plant but was less effective in clayey soils or soils with a high organic matter content. Soil subjected to either very low or very high fertilization rates also caused the inoculant to be less effective.

Sesbania rostrata as a source of fertilizer for maize

Research has shown that sowing Sesbania rostrata at a seeding rate of 45kg/ha can supplement 75% of the nitrogen requirement of maize after the third cropping.

S. rostrata seeds were first soaked in concentrated sulphuric acid for 20 minutes then drilled at 45kg/ha into furrows 50cm apart. As soon as the Sesbania started to flower it was ploughed under. Maize was then planted in furrows 75cm apart with one seed per hill at 25cm intervals. After 25-30 days a side-dressing of 25% total N (urea) was applied.

Results showed that green manuring with S.rostrata increased organic matter content and nitrogen mobilization of phosphorus, improved rnicrobiological and physical properties of the soil and had the potential to accumulate nitrogen and substitute for it as a fertilizer as well as to increase yield.

The Executive Director
Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and
Development (PCAARD)
Los Bahos, Laguna, THE PHILIPPINES

Helping deprived farmers

The Farmers Development Union is an association of farmers in development and promotes the hopes, activities and determination of the rural poor and c the marginalized with the aim , of achieving development which is truly sustainable, cullturally acceptable and self-sufficient.

The FDU's activities include information transfer, training supply of fertilizers etc. and credit, as well as consultancy services in technical and managerial matters.

Farmers Development Union PO Box 70, Erunmu, Ibadan NIGERIA

New sorghum hybrids for Southern Africa

Farmers in Southern Africa will soon have the opportunity to grow higher yielding hybrids of sorghum. In low rainfall areas these new hybrids are outyielding hybrid maize by more than 50%. At the moment hybrid maize usually gives better yields, even though sorghum is more drought tolerant.

The new sorghum bybrids have been developed in Zimbabwe by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT). At the Matopos Research Station the sorghum hybrids have yielded 4.2 tonnes/ hectare with 450mm rainfall. Under the same conditions hybrid maize yielded 2.7t/h. In addition some of the new hybrids are giving higher yields of green stover than the present sorghum varieties. In the very dry areas, where only sorghum or millet is grown, the new hybrids have yielded between 1 to 5t/h when the local varieties gave 200 to 250kg/h.

The new hybrids are still being screened for resistance to pests and diseases. It is also important that the quality of the grain is acceptable, especially for milling and brewing.

ICRISAT scientists are collaborating with the food industry in Zimbabwe to blend sorghum and wheat flours for baking. This should ensure that there is a good market for sorghum even after it has met the food deficit in the area.

The aim now is to encourage the local seed industry in Zimbabwe and Zambia to develop the improved seed.

PO Box 776
Bulawayo, ZIMBABWE

The detection of food shortages

An early warning system for food shortages and natural disasters in Africa is one step nearer, thanks to the DIANA telecommunications satellite system.

This direct access information system, which was developed and funded by the European Space Agency (ESA), will link the FAO headquarters in Rome with various regional surveillance offices and centres in Africa via Intelsat.

The information leaves the "mother" station in Rome for the regional stations: FAO Regional Office in Accra, Ghana, the Regional Surveillance, Cartography and Remote Sensing Centre in Nairobi, Kenya, and the Harare Weather Centre in Zimbabwe. Soon, these stations will also be able to transmit short messages and computer files back to the mother station.

DIANA transmits pictures and data on rainfall and the state of vegetation acquired by the environmental satellites and analyzed by the ARTEMIS system. ARTEMIS, developed by FAO, allows real-time surveillance of the state of crops in Africa and can issue an urgent warning if severe weather conditions are threatening, or if some natural disaster is imminent.

FAO and the ESA are carrying out a year of tests of the different applications of the DIANA system, starting in July 1992.

Via delle Terme di Caracalla
00100 Rome, ITALY

Software system for plant growth prediction

Farmers have predicted plant growth according to their experience for thousands of years. Now a new software system PLANTGRO, combines this experience with modern scientific techniques to provide new ways of predicting the growth of hundreds of plant species, including some lesser-known plants.

The PLANTGRO package, which was designed by the Division of Tropical Crops and Pastures of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization of Australia (CSIRO), comes with a handbook which uses a simple skill-rating system.

It encourages users to goat their own pace. In this way, people who have a strong feeling for plants but have little contact with computers or formal plant science, quickly realise that their expertise is vaIuable and can be recorded. The package provides starter data-files for 60 plants 30 soils and 40 climates.

PLANTGRO can be used in numerous contexts. For farmers, foresters and rural advisers, it provides an on-the-spot means of thinking about new land-use options. For planners at higher levels who use computerized resource information systems, it represents an add-on package which can give life to soil and climate data held in store. And for those struggling to integrate scraps of information about lesser-known plants it provides procedures for almost every situation.

Crops covered include banana, cashew, cassava, cocoa, coconut, coffee, cowpea, kenaf, lentil, maize, oil palm, pineapple, potato, rubber, soybean, sugarcane, sweet potato, taro, wheat and yam. Trees include Acacia spp. and tropical hardwoods.

Software programme language is GWBASIC (not supplied) System: MS DOS 3.2 or higher. Total access is given to software. Editing and upgrading of datafiles can be performed by using a simple word processing package.

The price is $A100 for the complete package, $A65 for the handbook only and $A40 for disks only.

CSIRO Publications
314 Albert Street
East Melbourne
Victoria 3002, AUSTRALIA

ATNESA workshop stimulates regional cooperation

The first workshop of the Animal Traction Network for Eastern and Southern Africa was held from 18-23 January, 1992, in Lusaka, Zambia.

The overall theme of the workshop was Improving animal traction technology. This broad topic was chosen as a development-orientated framework for analysing and discussing research and extension experiences concerning animal draft power. Seven interrelated subthemes were selected to allow contributors and discussion groups to focus on particular research and development topics:

- Improving the profitability of animal traction;
- Improving draft animal management;
- Improving tillage and weeding technology;
- Improving implement supply/distribution
- Women and animal traction technology; and
- Improving animal powered transport;

The workshop highlighted the great importance of animal traction as a major element in the smallholder farming systems of the region The use of draft animals is expanding in most countries and in some areas almost all smallholder farmers now use animal draft power. Cows are increasingly used for work and research and extension workers should give more attention to this farmer-led process, likewise to the role of donkeys for cultivation and transport.

The lack of accessiblity of animal traction technology to women was another issue raised by the workshop. It was recommended that promotion schemes should ensure that women benefit directly. But the overriding issue affecting all other factors relating to animal traction is profitabilty. Animal traction will only be sustainable if it is profitable to al1 concerned, including manufacturers of spares and suppliers of animals.

Mr Emmanuel Mwenya
Animal Draft Power
Agriculture Engineering
Department of Agriculture
PO Box 50291

Two new publications from FAO

Action plan for women in development. For many years FAO has been actively trying to promote awareness of tile role of women in agricultural anti rural development. In 1988 the FAO council asked the organization to step up its efforts in this particular area. An action plan aimed at bringing about the full integration of women into the development process was adopted unanimously by the Council.

The plan suggests directives on ways of introducing measures into all FAO's areas of activity that will recognize both the role and particular problems of women. FAO has now published a shortened version of it in an attempt to increase awareness of this issue as widely as possible.

The plan defines four areas for action: the legal status of women, their economic and social positions, and their role in decision-taking. In each of these areas the plan recommends action to be taken in order to remove the barriers which prevent women from taking a full part in the development process, as well as those that prevent them developing their ability to do so.

Improving the traditional processing methods of cassava and of some oil crops

This book, which is a synthesis of studies on women's food production and processing groups in Benin, is published under the auspices of the Promotion of women's role in the rural environment project, which is being funded by FAO's Technical Cooperation Programme.

The main purpose of this is to introduce equipment tested by women's groups into traditional food-processing methods. The tests have led to modifications which improve the safety of the women using them, and help them to expend their time and energy in the most efficient way possible.

This FAO report contains numerous photos and detailed plans of equipment, which will be useful to anyone intending to copy or adapt these experiments for their own purposes.

The project was based on the processing of four foodstuffs; palm nut, groundnut, shea butter and gari. In each case the traditional method is described, as is the new equipment used in the project. Concluding sections recommend ways of improving methods and equipment.

FAO Via delle Terme di Caracalla
00100 Rome ITALY

Cassava yields set to double?

Within the next ten years it is possible that cassava yields could double. Improved~varieties that are being grown on farms across Africa yield about 20 tonnes per hectare. New varieties under trial at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Nigeria are proving capable of yielding 40 tonnes per hectare.

The new varieties are triploid, that is they have three sets of chromosomes; they are the result of crossing diploid varieties (two sets of chromosomes) with tetraploids (4 sets of chromosomes).

The resultant triploids are more vigorous and are taller than the tetraploids. Their leaves are much bigger and broader, so they cover the ground much faster and are therefore more effective in shading out weeds.

As the triploid cassava is higher yielding it may be possible for farmers to release land for growing other crops. However, past experience has shown that it takes about 10 years for improved varieties to become widely crown. It may be a decade before the triploid varieties have any real impact on production.

PMB 5340

Video focuses on banana disease research

A wide range of banana cultivars, some of them the most popular varieties, now appear to be susceptible to Fusarium wilt. This is particularly critical in East Africa where the wilt is spreading rapidly.

In Australia, the Queensland Department of Primary Industries (QDPI) has produced a video entitled Panama disease - the banana industry under threat (Panama disease is a colloquial name sometimes used for Fusarium wilt).

The video covers the development, management and occurrence of the disease causing fungus in bananas in Queensland. It describes the life-cycle of the disease and shows the symptoms in roots, stems, leaves, bunch stalks and fruit in both Cavendish and Lady Finger bananas. Both internal and external damage are illustrated.

Management practices aimed at limiting the spread of the disease are also examined; current QDPI research programmes into the different races of the fungus and the development of resistant cultivars are described.

The 15 minute video is available in PAL format, in either VHS or BETAMAX sizes at $A25 plus cost of airmail postage at $Al0 for one copy, $A22 for two and $A37 for three to five. Other formats (NTSC and SECAM) are available at extra cost.

QDPI Publications
GPO Box 46
Brisbane 4001

Namibian ally?

African countries with hot, arid climates or even those with waterlogged or salty clay soils may have an ally in a versatile tree species found in Namibia. Terminalia sericea has spread naturally over a former war-zone area that had been cleared mechanically and by herbicide prior to 1978. Since that time the tree growth has been vigorous and the soil appears well restored.

Terminalia sericea is a semi-deciduous tree 3-13 metres tall. It grows abundantly in less populated areas of northern Namibia as well as around the Kalahari desert. As long as it is not subject to heavy competition for light, the species thrives across a range of soil-composition moisture and drainage conditions. It is an aggressive colonizer forming dense pioneer thickets on new alluvial, eroded or deteriorated soils. The trees improve sites by draining waterlogged soils, enriching impoverished soils and shading out weeds, allowing climax species to move in. Its seeds regenerate readily as open sites become available.

The tree has man useful qualities. The wood is yellow, grained, hard, heavy and very tough and the heartwood is durable, being both termite- and borer-proof. As well as the wood making good fencing and building material, the bark of Terminalia can be harvested and used also in construction as tieing strips. The roots have medicinal properties.

Terminal serica is a potential candidate for reforestation, erosion control and agroforestry at similar sites in other African countries.

PO Box 30677

Virus-free vanilla

Vanilla plants, freed of a serious virus disease, will soon be offered to farmers in Fiji and elsewhere. The lethal disease, known as a potyvirus, is a serious threat to vanilla production. It appeared in Tonga and then spread to Fiji, where vanilla is an important cash crop

The spread of the disease is exacerbated by the way farmers have to manage the crop. Vanilla has to be hand-pollinated, and once one plant is Infected with the potyvirus it is soon spread from plant to plant as farmers pollinate the crop.

A scientist from New Zealand working with a Tongan scientist was able to identify the virus. Anti-sera were developed, leading to tissue culture of virus-free vanilla.

Now these virus-free plants have to be multiplied and supplied to farmers. But in distributing the disease-free material farmers will have to be taught how to handle their crops so that they do not encourage the spread of tile disease should it occur again.

Plant Protection Service South Pacific Commission Private Mail Bag
Suva, FIJI

Pesticide protection booklet

A brochure entitled Protective clothing for the safe use of pesticides in hot climates has been produced by the International Group of National Associations of Manufacturers of Agrochemical Products (GIFAP).

The aim is to make protective clothing available locally at a reasonable price to all farmers field workers, professional applicators and other users of pesticides in hot and humid climates. Four key items have been selected to ensure the safe handling and use of pesticides: gloves, a protective garment, a face shield and an apron. Each specification has a clearly written, simple description of its purpose, basic requirements design, material, additional information and alternatives. Clear diagrams give measurements and outlines to serve as a basis for local manufacture.

GIFAP, Avenue A/bert Lancaster 79A
1180 Brussels, BELGIUM

Courses and conferences

11 January -12 June 1993

21 March-4 July 1993

21 April-15 July 1993
The above courses are offered by the International Agricultural Centre
PO Box 88, 6700 AB Wageningen, THE NETHERLANDS

15-19 February 1993, Bangkok, THAILAND

The Asian Vegetable Research and Development Center (AVRDC), in conjunction with a number of national and international institutes, is co-sponsoring this symposium to promote discussion on the constraints and solutions to Allium growing and storage in the tropics and to bridge the gaps between researchers, commercial ventures and extensionists.

Dr David Midmore, Convener Intemational Symposium on Alliums for the Tropics AVRDC PO Box 42 Shanhua, Tainan, TAIWAN

6-11 September 1993, The Hague, THE NETHERLANDS

The Congress theme is Water management in the next century. ICID Congresses are held every three years and provide an exclusive forum to exchange information and new ideas on irrigation and drainage all over the world. The 7th International Exhibition on Irrigation, Drainage and Flood Control will be held simultaneously.

Prof. dir. W A Segeren, Chairman,
Organizing Comitee Secretariat PO
Box 82000, 2508 EA, The Hague, THE NETHERLANDS

23-27 November 1992, Nairobi, KENYA on current levels of performnance, risk and prospects in pastoralism today.
Animal Production Society of Kenya, Hill Plaza, PO Box 34188, Nairobi, KENYA


23-27 November 1992, Ouagadougou, BURKINA FASO organized by the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) and the Centre National des Semences Forestieres (CNSF) of Burkina Faso.

CNSF, 01 8P 7687, Ouagadougou 01, BURKINA FASO

11-15 December 1992, venue to be announced
Dr R L Baker, ILCA, PO Box 46847, Nairobi, KENYA