Joel Matthews received some feedback about his comments on low fertility soil and traditional varieties in EDN 86. In response, he sent the following additional comment.
“I must emphasize that increasing soil fertility, organic content, and mulch cover is a good idea in most cases. Agriculture cannot be reduced to a single set of conditions/solutions applicable everywhere, lest we become purveyors of agricultural ideology rather than true science.
“There are certain environmental conditions, fairly common in West Africa, where the standard solutions can be detrimental. In these conditions it is best to recommend partial conversion of farms to high fertility/mulching, to allow maximum exploitation of extreme seasonal fluctuations; traditional longseason cereals on low fertility sandy sites will outperform during very low rainfall years, and improved short-season cereals will outperform on high fertility sites during years of adequate rainfall.
“Since a moderate organic mulch cover can absorb most of a 5mm rain, dirt mulch, which absorbs nearly 100% of light precipitation, is substituted for the very low rainfall contingency.”
ECHO Staff 2005. Low Fertility Soil and Traditional Varieties. ECHO Development Notes no. 88