Organic Farming

Tutorial: How To Grow Many Hectares of Maize Organically

SCRATCH – DIBBLE – SLASH -WEED MAIZE

This is about where we’re at to plant on time, get good germination and save labour!

Clear residue out of planting rows to facilitate easy planting with the dibble stick. Use rope or follow last years rows to get straight lines.
Make sure you’ve ‘scratched’ clear the rows before the 15th of November!
Make sure the manure is as close to the field as possible before the rains start. Remember – always cover the manure to save nutrients!
Follow the scratch lines and punch holes with the dibble stick.
Make holes 35-40cm apart in the row.
Plant maize and pigeon pea in the same hole. 2 seeds maize 3-4 seeds pigeon pea.
Cover with loose soil to make sure the soil falls down to the base of the hole.
For maize, residues are cleared before the first planting date (NOV 15th for us). This year we were also chipping weeds in the rows due to the early rains. A line can be used if you can’t follow the rows from last year. All our dry land crops are planted on 90cm row spacing.
Here, pigeon pea is planted together with the maize. 3/4 seeds of pigeon pea to 2 seeds of maize. Hole are made 35-40cm apart in the row.
Seeds are either covered with well decomposed manure or, as shown in this picture, with loose soil. If you use soil to cover the seeds, the soil must fill the hole and no air pocket should be left in the hole.
Here, perennial green manures (Stylosanthes Guainensis in this case) grow between the rows and will later be slashed back to release nitrogen. One person makes holes, one throws seed and the other covers with manure.
Here silverleaf desmodium grows between maize rows.
Slashed green manures allow the crop to grow on and cuttings decompose and release nitrogen into the soil.
Ooops! Here maize is planted between established pigeon pea plants. After planting, pigeon pea is cut back to form a mulch which decomposes to add nutrients to the soil. The pigeon pea grows back with the maize.
Maize germinating with climbing beans.
With silverleaf desmodium as a permanent ground cover, weeds are cut back 2 or three time during the growing season and left to grow in the canopy of the maize. The deep rooting silverleaf provides livestock with high quality forage throughout the dry season.
Maize grows faster than the pigeon pea so there is no competition on the maize crop. Pigeon pea grows together with the maize in the same planting station – this allows for efficient weeding. Where pigeon pea is planted between the rows, weeding becomes slow and often many pigeon pea plants are killed during weeding.
2-3 weeks after slashing the weeds back, manure is applied as a top dressing just before the final weeding.
Top dressing with manure.
Maize is almost mature and the pigeon pea grows on in the canopy.
Here velvet bean grows up the maize plants.

Is Organic Farming More Profitable Than Conventional Farming?

In short, yes, due to increased nutrients and healthy seed. The importance of excellent growing mediums cannot be emphasized enough in organic farming. Healthy soil has an active microbial network that assists in breaking down nutrients into something plants can use. However, overuse of chemical fertilizers in conventional farming eventually destroys soil as it does not support soil microbes or earthworms and other insects.

Bacterial life forms are not only valuable in soil – they are key elements in proper digestion in animals and people. We call them probiotics and these days doctors advise those on antibiotics to take probiotics to ensure that their digestive systems continue to function optimally.

Conventional farming relies heavily on chemical fertilizers but this is the equivalent of giving people nothing but vitamin pills to eat.

This brings us to the key question – is organic farming more profitable than conventional farming? The answer is undoubtedly yes. Conventional farming may seem simple – plant, fertilize, harvest, repeat. In actual fact, conventional farming renders most soil almost lifeless in a few years. Chemical fertilizers may promote healthy leaves and crops may look outwardly healthy but there are little to no micronutrients being absorbed and the soil starts to lack organic matter with which to anchor and feed plants, worms and microbes. The soil can start to become sandy and when the crops are harvested and there is nothing in the ground, strong winds can cause serious erosion.

Conventional farming may be more profitable in the short term but in the long run the farmer is left with poor soil that no amount of chemical fertilizers can improve. Even resting the land doesn’t help much. The farmer knows to rotate crops and let the land rest every few years to let it recover. But this can further compound the problem because the few remaining bacterial lifeforms in the soil need roots to survive and if herbicides were used extensively chances are the soil will not have much vegetation growing in it for a few months or more. This further decreases the amount of microbes in the soil, compounding the problem.

farm3Organic farming protects and feeds soil microbes which in turn help plants to thrive by helping with nutrient absorption and other functions. The same principle applies for animals too – probiotics in the digestive tract help break down food into nutrients. The reason why a lot of factory farmed animals suffer from poor health is because they are fed sterile feed that has had most bacteria destroyed. This is to prevent toxins, but leaves the animals vulnerable to poor nutrient absorption because they don’t have enough good bacteria in their digestive tracts. This results in susceptibility to disease – and the farmer then gives the animals more antibiotics which only makes things worse. Animals should be fed treats such as mealworms or fruit and vegetables and meat scraps for probiotics and extra nutrients.

Organic pecan nut farmer Gerhard Ysie Oosthuizen has this to say about yields in organic farming:

I’ve been at some farms where they are certified organic but the trees and plants are not healthy at all. Producing plants need nutrients and after years of neglect and destruction soils aren’t able to supply these nutrients and become reliant on chemical fertilizers. Advancing monoculture by using herbicides and pesticides only further damages the ecosystem that was suppose to help your plant grow. How to change: Soil is life…and life is in soil. 80% of all life on land is under our feet in the soil. This is true for a reason. These organisms support the plants that grows in the soil. But the plants also support the life in the soil by supplying them with exudates/sugar compounds. This is a mutual relationship. But after years of soil and microbial neglect you have to start again ensuring that the “good” microbes are in your soil. Innoculating your soil with stuff like manure…compost…urine…or Microbial products like EMLife and Biocults Mycorizah. But these microorganisms need food so you can’t just have plants growing for only 6 months of the year…you need to have active cover crops esp. Legumes (plants that fix nitrogen) Cover crops will mine minerals from the soil…and when mulched…this will become available to microorganisms and ultimately to your crop

Organic farming should be the norm rather than the exception as it is has so many benefits other than maintaining soil health. Most seed used in conventional farming results in plants that produce poor seeds, if these seeds are planted they grow into weak specimens that can’t reproduce themselves past one or two generations, if they even germinate at all. Nature is designed to be abundant and a farmer should be able to save a portion of the seeds for planting in the next season and each year the farmer should have more seed to plant, exponentially increasing yields FOR FREE. One plant can create hundreds if not thousands of more plants. The fact that we have people on Earth that are starving is mind boggling when you really think about it.

Organic farming is also bee friendly, eco friendly, people friendly… it is working with Nature not against it. Insects can still invade plants but organic pesticides are far less harmful to the environment than usual pesticides. In addition, healthy plants exude substances which deter pests.

The Farming Systems Trial (FST)® at Rodale Institute is America’s longest running, side-by-side comparison of organic and chemical agriculture. Started in 1981 to study what happens during the transition from chemical to organic agriculture, the FST surprised a food community that still scoffed at organic practices. After an initial decline in yields during the first few years of transition, the organic system soon rebounded to match or surpass the conventional system. Over time, FST became a comparison between the long term potential of the two systems.

After a 30 year side-by-side trial, the Rodale report shows:

Organic yields match conventional yields.
Organic outperforms conventional in years of drought.
Organic farming systems build rather than deplete soil organic matter, making it a more sustainable system.
Organic farming uses 45% less energy and is more efficient.
Conventional systems produce 40% more greenhouse gases.
Organic farming systems are more profitable than conventional. 

https://www.permaculture.co.uk/news/1006156357/30-year-old-trial-finds-organic-farming-outperforms-conventional-agriculture

To find organic heirloom seed suppliers in SA visit this link: http://www.ethicalsuppliers.co.za/organic-heirloom-seed-suppliers-south-africa/

Organic farms can be found on the Ethical Suppliers Retail Map: http://www.ethicalsuppliers.co.za/organic-non-gmo-store-locator/

For cheap organic fertilizer that is used by golf courses for green lush grass with no offensive odor e-mail info@ethicalsuppliers.co.za