This study was conducted to assess the level of use of tractors in Vhembe district, Limpopo province. Soils in this district are generally fertile and support irrigated and dryland agriculture. Although some farmers own tractors and other farm implements, mainly for hiring out, much land remains unplowed. Owing to lack of operational knowledge, some equipment is not used or is used only during the plowing season, and so runs at a loss. As a result, it is difficult for tractor owners to cover their expenses, since most of the time the tractors sit idle. The aims of this study were to assess the level of use of tractors in Vhembe, to investigate the types of tractors and implements owned by farmers and how they can be fully used, to determine the costs of running tractors, and to propose how tractors and other farm implements can be fully used throughout the year. Fifty owners and operators in Vhembe's four municipalities were interviewed. The available tractors were used for tillage only during the rainy months and sat idle during the dry months. Infrequent rain and lack of skills at operating implements caused serious problems for farmers. The area to be cultivated, tractor efficiency, and number of rainy days strongly influenced the level of tractor use. The necessity of appropriate mechanization planning for Vhembe is discussed. The number of tractors needs to be increased and will require outside assistance to help farmers acquire machinery, to train operators, and to provide after-sales services.
Maize (Zea mays L.) is an important food crop for almost everyone in Kenya. It accounts for more than 40% of the daily caloric intake and has a per capita consumption of 98 kg/year, which translates to a national annual consumption of 3.32 million tonnes. However, because annual maize production in Kenya is only about 2.7 million tones, far below the national consumption rate Kenya must import maize in most years. A large proportion of the maize grown in Kenya comes from small-scale production by about 3.5 million farmers. The development of new technologies and farming methods during the 1960s and 1970s (often dubbed Kenya's “green revolution”) saw large improvements in crop production, but this growth has not been sustained. What caused this decline? Here, I attempted to determine the challenges affecting maize production in Kenya by analyzing the effects that the failure of small-scale farmers to adopt integrated technologies has had on productivity. The Nakuru District was selected as the study area because of its accessibility and ecological and cultural diversity. A survey of a sample of 867 farmers was conducted during the 2007 maize harvesting season. The farmers were interviewed by using a structured questionnaire and their comments recorded. The results indicated that selective adoption of technologies did not result in marginal increases in productivity, as exemplified by farmers who used hybrid maize seeds but no fertilizer. Farmers who used hybrid seeds but planted late did not gain marginal increases in productivity over farmers who planted early but used inferior seed. Delays in land preparation and planting were due mainly to over-reliance on family labor, especially children, who attended school and hence could work on the farm only in the evenings and at weekends. Machinery hire for land preparation was expensive because of equipment scarcity, high fuel costs, and the small, scattered, and irregularly shaped nature of the land being worked. The per-kilogram costs of both fertilizer and hybrid maize seeds were more than 10 times the value of maize grains sold by farmers to the local market; hence, these items were not affordable by many farmers. The high cost of inputs and the lack of adequate information on production technologies were therefore hindrances to maize productivity. Integration of locally available maize production technologies and resources was identified as one of the options in addressing food insecurity because it would be likely to reduce farmers' over-reliance on external inputs such as fertilizers and seed. Integrated use of available natural resources would also increase the sustainability of maize production. Productivity therefore needs to be analyzed in terms of specific local environments and farmer potential instead of research-station-based results.
A majority of rural households in Zambia depend entirely on agricultural production for their livelihood. Low production levels and poor marketing can put these households at an economic disadvantage. This paper examines income levels, the contribution of different sources of income, and the extent of income diversification of rural households in two communities in the Mporokoso district of Northern Province, Zambia. In addition, the paper examines people's perception of their earnings and the possibilities for increasing them. For this purpose, data were collected in a survey of household demographic characteristics, monetary income by source, agricultural production, and perceptions of livelihood. In addition, direct interviews were conducted to identify perceived problems with income-generating activities. Using this information, three types of analyses were conducted: (1) a comparative analysis between the two communities to determine income sources and diversification; (2) an econometric analysis of income earnings as related to human capital, family workforce, land, and other household characteristics; and (3) a problem tree (cause-effect) analysis. The analyses indicate that, to sustain income growth in these and similar areas, cultivation of more beans and groundnuts should be promoted through improving soil fertility and expanding the area under cultivation. Livestock development would also contribute to enhanced household income through animal sales , enable expand cultivated area and manure provision to sustain crop production.
Agriculture remains the bedrock of the Ghanaian economy. Apart from employing about 60% of the total workforce of the country, the sector contributes 30% to GDP. However, agricultural production is largely undertaken by smallholder subsistence farmers who rely solely on highly unpredictable and sporadic seasonal rainfall. Maize, sorghum, and groundnut are the main crops cultivated by most farmers, particularly in northern Ghana. These crops are the principal sources of food and income for farm households. Therefore, variability in prices of the crops at different markets tends to adversely affect the incomes and food security of poor rural farmers. Avoiding such adverse effects, however, requires informed decision making by producers based on good understanding of the trends of supply and demand. Hence, in this study, I applied a spatial equilibrium model in the Upper West Region of Ghana to identify market strategies that influence the marketing and production decisions of farmers and the technology dissemination decisions of agricultural staff. The data used in the study include wholesale and retail crop prices (2002-2007), production/yield figures, and commodity transport costs sourced from District Agricultural Development Units for three markets in the region. Data on the Consumer Price Index was obtained from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning of Ghana. In general, the annual average price of maize and sorghum are higher in Wa market than in Tumu or Lawra markets. Comparison of linear and quadratic programming results showed that farmers attain different produce prices (incomes) depending on whether they are price makers or price takers. Farmers in this region are generally risk averse, so they like to ship their produce to different markets. Considering these findings, it is advisable for farmers to form organizations or groups to market their products collectively. In addition, established groups should network to facilitate the exchange of market information.
Ghana's mango (Mangifera indica) industry is facing potentially serious problems with fruit flies (Diptera: Tephritidae), which endanger the industry's contribution to the national economy. Asian fruit flies in the genus Bactrocera are destructive pests of fruits and vegetables worldwide, but little is known about their prevalence in Ghana since the first detection of Bactrocera invadens in 2005. This paper reports the results of a study of the occurrence of B. invadens in Ghana's Upper West Region and assesses the pest's distribution, the damage it causes, and potential management options. Despite limited collections of B. invadens in 2007 (the first formal survey of this pest), the results of weekly trapping provide a good preliminary understanding of its presence in the region. Systematic trapping and host fruits surveys confirmed its presence in all eight districts and at three experimental stations. The highest density (10.8 flies per trap per day) was recorded in Nadawli district and the lowest (1.6 flies per trap per day) in Lawra district. In total, 10,349 flies were captured during the study period which lasted for 6 months. The counts were highest in August, when the flies attack developed fruits. Late-maturing cultivars (mostly exotics) were more severely attacked than early (local) cultivars, and B. invadens also attacked cashew (Anacardium occidentale) and shea tree (Vitellaria paradoxa) in the study area. Mango farmers were interviewed to obtain information about the pest. Sixty percent reported that the fruit fly, although a recent pest on mangoes in the study area, had decreased fruit production. Mealybugs (Rastrococcus invadens) accounted for 13% of the pests in mango fields, but ants (Oecophylla longinoda) and termites (Microtermes spp.) were also important pests that negatively affected mango production. Fruit fly control is still at an experimental stage in Ghana. Therefore, control should focus on integrated pest management to protect important crops. Training of agricultural extension officers, mango farmers, and other stakeholders, and international cooperation, will be imperative to ensure effective management of this invasive pest.
Organic farming is a system of agricultural practice that utilizes natural materials, such as compost, biofertilizers and natural pesticides as well as locally adapted plant varieties. Organic products are safe for human beings, and organic farming contributes to environmental preservation. In Bantul regency, Indonesia, organic agriculture as an integrated movement began in the 2000s. This study examines the development of organic rice farming in 5 subdistricts of Bantul regency (Bantul, Pandak, Sanden, Piyungan and Banguntapan). The observations and data analysis showed that although the productivity of organic rice is increasing year by year in these subdistricts, the area of fields under organic cultivation and the yields of organic rice have remained low because of problems arising from farmers, extension workers, markets and local government. In order to further develop organic rice farming, it is recommended that the capacity of farmers be enhanced through field schools on organic rice farming, education and training for extension workers, increased guidance for farmers on exactly how much compost to add to soil as natural pesticides, and establishment of networks between local government and non-governmental organizations on both the technical and non-technical sides.
This study aimed to demonstrate the potential for improving yields of maize and other crops, as well as farm income, in vulnerable rural communities through moderate use of inputs, using a conservation farming technique called “planting basins,” thereby improving food self-sufficiency. This technology improves soil fertility by adopting a low application rate of inorganic fertilizer and supplementing this with soil amendments based on animal manure and lime to improve soil nutrient levels. Nutrients and moisture both limit plant growth in semi-arid Zambia. The technique was tested with plow-layer soil samples collected from farm fields at Mungu and Chikupi. Before the addition of 100kg/ha fertilizer (N : P : K 10 : 20 : 10), 100kg/ha urea fertilizer, 300kg/ha lime and 4,000kg/ha animal manure, soil pH (H2O) was 6.34 and 6.09 at Mungu and Chikupi, respectively, with corresponding pH (CaCl2) values of 5.24 and 4.9 for the two sites. The pH values increased (improved) significantly (to 6.80 and 6.39 pH (H2O) and 5.41 and 5.21 pH (CaCl2), respectively; P=0.001) in both soils after the addition of these soil amendments. The soil moisture content also rose from 2.37 and 2.68% in Mungu and Chikupi, respectively, to 7.91 and 7.30%. Available P also increased from 4.98 to 22.55ppm at Mungu and from 4.63 to 34.11ppm at Chikupi.Total nitrogen content also increased from 0.054% to 0.095% at Mungu and from 0.049 to 0.103% at Chikupi. Soil carbon content increased from 0.804 to 1.098% at Mungu and from 0.686 to 1.120% at Chikupi. Other plant nutrients (Ca, Mg and K) also increased, and most of the increases were significant. These results demonstrate that soil improvement can be achieved with reduced inputs by rural communities.
In recent years, concerns have arisen about the degradation of soil and water because of intensive applications of chemicals and fertilizers on farms in developing countries. Conversion to organic farming could increase the use of local resources while at the same time decreasing chemical inputs. Organic farming could also increase food safety levels for consumers and produce higher value crops and reduce expenses for farmers. However, a crucial factor in developing a supply of organic goods is to determine whether there is enough market demand for organic products. The aim of this study was to identify consumer preferences and potential demand for organic produce, specifically red onions and potatoes, in typical local markets with the goal of helping to establish sustainable organic farming in the Enrekang Municipality in the eastern part of Indonesia, as well as other agricultural areas. One hundred consumers were interviewed at supermarkets and downtown markets in Makassar, the capital city of South Sulawesi, Indonesia. The results show that respondents who have higher family income and higher educational levels are more likely to purchase organic products. Respondents with children and older respondents also were more likely to purchase organic products. Consumers expressed a greater willingness to purchase organic products at lower relative prices and a reduced willingness at higher relative prices. The promotion of organic products at affordable prices is therefore a crucial factor in expanding consumer demand. It may be possible to encourage sustainable organic agriculture in developing countries by adopting strategies such as integrated pest management through the utilization of local resources to realize lower production costs and by improving market efficiency by employing direct retail marketing.
The aim of this research was to observe differences in beta-glucosidase activity and changes in the community structure of soil microbes in chemically and organically fertilized soils. Beta-glucosidase is one of the most important enzymes produced by soil microbes because it plays a key role in the decomposition of cellulose debris added to soil as fertilizer. A soil rich in bacterial diversity is stable and suitable for optimal plant growth. Soils with very low nitrogen and carbon content were examined under natural weather conditions in Japan. Significant differences (P<0.05) were observed in beta-glucosidase activity between the different treatments as measured by colorimetric analysis. Beta-glucosidase activity increased in all pots but at different rates. After 60 days, composted manure (treatment 1) and the combination of chemical and fertilizers and composted manure (treatment 3) showed the highest and second highest levels of beta-glucosidase activity, respectively. Treatment 1 showed 30% higher beta-glucosidase activity as compared to treatment 3 and 75% higher beta-glucosidase activity as compared to treatments 2 and 4 (control). The community structure of the soil bacteria was assayed by the PCR-denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (PCR-DGGE) technique. We captured the banding pattern of soil microbes on the gel images following DGGE of PCR-amplified 16S rDNA using the 357F and 518R primers. Although the gross trend was the same, the four different treatments showed differences in the DNA banding pattern, suggesting differences in the soil bacterial species community structure among the four different soil treatments. Treatment with chemical fertilizers gave a few intense bands, whereas treatment with composted manure and treatment with a combination of chemical fertilizer and composted manure yielded more bands that were less intense. These findings suggest that chemical fertilizers promote the colonization of specific dominant bacterial species, whereas composted manure promotes diversity in the soil bacterial population. Principal component analysis confirmed that the treatment 1, 2 and 3 results varied markedly from the treatment 4, control results. We conclude that exclusive use of chemical fertilizers in soils with low or moderate carbon levels would lead to low beta-glucosidase activity and a reduction in the diversity of the soil microbe community structure. Low beta-glucosidase activity and reduced soil bacterial diversity might be detrimental to the condition of the soil and lead to an increase in the soil's postharvest recovery period and a reduction in the preseason decomposition rate of plant residues in the soil.
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