General Farming Tips

Crop productionSoil health

Notes to broadcasters

Network participants have found that the following techniques work well in their regions.  If you experiment with them, please let us know if they work for you.  Although these articles have been edited, they have not been researched or checked by DCFRN.


Kitchen smoke preserves maize:
By E. James Kalikwani; Director Variety Farmers; Jinja, Uganda

When maize has dried in the field and is ready to harvest, select the healthy cobs that you want to keep. Cut off the stalks and the cobs with a sharp knife and tie them up in a bundle. Hang them near the cooking area. The smoke that collects in the kitchen will protect the maize from pests.

Finger Millet, that Good Old Crop
ByJames Nyamache,Teacher,Nyangoso Primary School,Kisii, Kenya

It is important to plant traditional varieties of crops. There is no doubt that the old crops are still useful, maybe even more useful, than the modern hybrid ones. Therefore, we should encourage farmers to plant these old crops.

In my area, we have an important old crop called finger millet. Not many people grow this crop these days, but people are talking of growing it again since hybrid maize, which took its place, is sometimes harmful to the soil. After growing finger millet, the soil is fertile and manageable and the digging is easy. This is because finger millet is really a grass crop.

The grains of finger millet can be kept for many years without being attacked by insect pests as long as they are kept in a clean, dry place. The only time one might lose some finger millet crop is when the grains are ripening in the garden. This is because birds like eating them.

Stop Rats from Climbing Coconut Trees and Eating Your Coconuts
byUzoma Nwaogwugwu,Teacher,Lagos, Nigeria

Here are some ways you can stop rats from eating coconuts on your trees. First, make sure that the coconut trees are well spaced so that the leaves of each tree do not touch other trees. This way the rats will not be able to climb from one tree to another.

You can also use tin or aluminum sheets although they can be costly. The metal sheet should be 30-50 cm wide and long enough to go around the trunk once. Wrap it on the tree just high enough so that the rats can’t jump over it, and nail it to the tree. The rats cannot cross the metal or aluminum sheet because it will be slippery and they will fall off.

You can also use adhesives which trap rats or prevent them from climbing the tree. Rub these on the stem above the roots of the tree.

When using any of these methods, it is important to keep the base of the tree weeded so that there are no hiding places for rats.

Bottle Top Fish Scaler
byDaniel Oloo Otieno, Agriculture Co-ordinator,Inades-Formation Kenya,Nairobi, Kenya

A fish scaler made from bottle caps works even better than the back of a knife. You’ll need a clean hardwood base shaped like a paddle or bat. The square part of the paddle should be about seven centimetres wide — large enough to fit about five bottle caps. Coat the paddle with either food-gradeplastic resin or lead-free paint. (This is important since the paddle will be used on food.) Strip the bottle caps of any paper, plastic, rubber seal, or glue. Now nail the bottle caps to the paddle, with the serrated edges facing out. Make sure the bottle caps are loose enough to rotate. To use the scaler, hold the fish by the tail and move the scaler gently over the fish, moving from the tail to the head.

The same technique works for removing small feathers from poultry.

Make sure you wash the scaler thoroughly in soapy water after use to prevent food poisoning.

Technique to Control Flies
ByJavier S. Gho,Rural Programs Officer,TECHNE,Santiago, Chile

You can reduce the number of flies in chicken coops and around your home by encouraging flies to deposit their eggs in a trap.

The trap is a shallow container filled with 1 inch of fuel oil. The container is partly covered with a mosquito net. The mosquito net is covered with one inch of manure sweetened with molasses, sugarcane syrup, or a sugar and water solution.

The flies lay their eggs in the manure. When the larvae emerge they search for darkness and fall into the fuel oil.

Sawdust Enriches Soil
ByAung Hein,Lecturer,State Agricultural Institute,Yangon, Myanmar

Farmers can increase soil organic matter content by adding manure, compost, or by incorporating green manure crops into the soil. Sawdust is another choice for farmers with a small amount of land. However it is important to treat the sawdust before using it to prevent crops from turning yellow or becoming unhealthy. Here is a simple way to treat sawdust.

First, pile up the sawdust you plan to use. Then make a thin solution of animal manure and water. You can use either fresh or decomposed animal manure. Sprinkle the manure solution on the sawdust pile and stir it thoroughly. Leave it for a few weeks until the sawdust is well decomposed. When the sawdust is well decomposed you can use it the same way you use animal manure. For example, it makes a good mulch. You can also mix the sawdust right into the soil. This improves plant growth and crop yield.

A Good Way to Grow Trees
BySuwaiba Suleiman Isah,Current Affairs Officer,Katsina State Radio and Television Service,Nigeria

The Nigerian Association of Women Journalists started a successful campaign to plant trees in parts of the country where the desert is creeping in. The people start planting at the beginning of the rainy season, so the trees are well established before the end of rainfall. For each tree seedling they dig a hole 30 centimetres deep and 15 centimetres wide. They carefully remove the seedling’s wrappings without disturbing the ball of soil around its roots. Then they lower the roots and soil into the hole, keeping the seedling’s stem, branches, and leaves above the ground. They fill the hole first with topsoil, then with subsoil, carefully packed. When the plant stands firm, they water it well. To protect the seedlings from being eaten by animals they use fences or thorn bushes to keep the animals away.

They fertilize the seedlings with manure — this should be done a few weeks after planting — and keep them watered. The Nigerian Association for Women Journalists points out that the trees help to keep the desert from expanding, and also provide firewood, poles, fodder for animals, and food and medicine for people.

Make Fire in a Bucket
ByOpiro Kenneth Lakuma,District Forest Extension Officer,Ministry of Water, Energy, Minerals, and Environment Protection,Mpigi, Uganda

The traditional three-stone fire wastes valuable firewood. You’ll save a lot of firewood if you build your fires in an old bucket.

Knock the bottom out of the bucket and punch holes all over it using a six-inch nail. At the wider end of the bucket, which will be the end that sits on the ground, bang the edge so that it curves inward. Now cut two arch-shaped openings at opposite sides of the wider end. Make the openings large enough to fit firewood through.

Now you’ll need to coat the inside of the bucket with a mixture that will hold the heat. The mixture is a combination of clay, millet chaff, or a similar kind of waste, and manure and water. Let this stand for a week, then use it to coat the inside of the bucket to a thickness of four centimetres. Let this dry for another week and it will be ready to use.

You’ll have to recoat the bucket with the clay mixture at least every six months. The bucket method uses only half as much firewood as the traditional three-stone fire because it holds more heat in. The bucket stays hot enough to boil water even after the firewood is removed.

How to Plan in Straight Rows
ByGrace Andah,Agricultural Extension Services,Ghana

It’s possible to plant your crops in straight rows, even without the aid of a tractor or planting machine. In Ghana, farmers do this by using three or more tall poles called sighting poles. The idea is to put the poles in a straight line and walk from one to the other, planting as you go. The advantages of row planting are that you can grow more food and have fewer weeds and an easier harvest.

Here’s how it is done. Choose straight poles at least two metres long. The more poles the straighter your lines will be. Mark the width you want to have between your rows on the poles, making sure the markings are the same on each pole. Now start at one end of your field and put the poles in the ground, lining them up to mark the first row. If you have just three poles, put one at either end and one in the centre of the row. Now stand at the first pole and make your first planting. Then pick up the pole and, using the width measurement you marked on it, set it in the earth where the next row will be. Now position yourself again at your first planting, facing the rest of the poles. Plant the whole row as you walk toward the poles, resetting each pole for the next row when you get to it. This way, when you finish your first row, the poles will be in place for your second row, and so on. You’ll have a field planted in straight rows in no time.

Growing Oil Palm Mushrooms (The Ghanian Way)
By Peter Dabo, District Extension Officer, Ministry of Agriculture,Mampong-Ashanti, Ghana

Oil palm mushrooms are delicious. They provide a good source of protein which children need in order to grow. These mushrooms usually grow in rotten oil palm trunks. Here is a way to grow them yourself.

In a shaded area, dig a large pit, about two metres in diameter and two-thirds of a metre deep. Cover the sides and bottom of the pit with fresh plantain leaves or a perforated plastic sheet. You can also use dry banana or plantain leaves or rice straw, but if you use any of these you must soak them in water overnight.

In the pit, make a heap of cassava, cocoyam, and yam peelings. Water the heap heavily with hot water which will kill bacteria and insects. Now take a mature fruit body of the oil palm mushroom and mash it well in water. Sprinkle this mixture on the heap. What you are doing is seeding the heap with the spores of the mushroom.This is also called spawning. You can also get spawn from the trunks of rotting oil palms, or from a spawn laboratory.

Now water the heap and cover it with plantain leaves or plastic. Let it sit for five days. On the sixth or seventh day, water the heap gently. If it is the dry season, water the heap from then on once or twice a day, in the morning or evening. Stop watering when pinheads appear and don’t start again until the pinheads are the size of maize grains. If it is the rainy season, don’t water the heap. Instead, shield it so that the rain does not fall directly on it.

You can harvest the mushrooms 14-21 days after spawning.