Trials Show Potential in Crop Production

Extensive work with on-farm trials and demonstrations in northern Namibia over the past ten years has proved that a range of crop production yields can be substantially increased despite Namibia’s often extreme conditions of low and erratic rainfall.

Rod Davis one of the foremost Namibian Resource Consultants, noted during the 18yh Namibian Rangeland Forum here last week. Davis says these fully recorded and analysed yields increases have been in the order of 200% to 600%. Addressing the audience on the topic of the Incorporation of Conservation Agriculture into Rangeland Management, he adds that “as a result it is now time to seriously consider using the technology NRC developed for this initiative by the incorporation, in a holistic manner, of what we now term Namibia-specific Conservation Agriculture (NSCA) into a mixed farming approach, where it is possible to combine livestock and crop production mixed farming does have distinct aantages. Arable agriculture using the NSCA method could have a positive effect on a ranching enterprise economy. Maize, cowpea fodder, mahangu, and horticulture plus others all become a consideration,” he says.

Davis notes that prior to the start of the Conservation Tillage project, referred to above, a survey was carried out in 2004 to establish whether mahangu production farming in the North could become a commercial proposition. The main conclusion drawn was that this would not be the case unless yields could be substantially increased, and on-going soil degradation was reversed by improved farming practises. Recommendations were for an NSCA approach with the submittal of a project research protocol for on-farm fully participatory trials.

The NSCA system, whilst being very simple, does in fact require good management and attention to detail. The following are the basic principles:

-Ripper Furrowing: an implement was designed (now being manufactured in Namibia) that would simultaneously form a furrow for in-field water harvesting with ripping in the base of the furrow to break the hard pan caused, in the main, by years of disc harrowing. Moisture increase in the base of the furrowrip line with a metre row spacing, where the crop is planted, is 75% meaning that annual precipitation, for example, of 300mm becomes an effective 525 mm, or 400mm becomes 700mm in the base of the furrow (this is the main attribute of NSCA),

-Constant Traffic: whereby the same lines are followed every season to ensure a concentrated fertility and moisture build up over seasons,

-No-till: whilst this system is an excellent approach in conditions of adequate rainfall it does not work in Namibia.

Source : New Era