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Contour Cultivation and Live Barriers for Small-Scale Farmers

Robert Walle

Many smallholder farmers live in areas with hilly or mountainous terrain. Soil erosion is a major issue in growing crops on steep slopes. When we see contoured plantings across slopes, we know that someone cares about erosion and is doing something about it. The curves are aesthetic, but what do they really do?

To understand what those curves do, we need to know something about contours. Contour lines, drawn on a map or marked on the ground, show lines of consistent elevation. They guide the farmer in tilling and planting across instead of up and down the slope. Farming across the slope is one of the easiest ways for small-scale farmers to conserve soil and water. This article outlines several ways to mark contour lines along slopes and plant simple conservation practices like live barriers.

Taro (Colocasia esculenta)

Stacy Swartz and Josh Jamison

Taro is a major aroid that contains a starchy, edible corm high in carbohydrates. Corms are enlarged stem tissue that stores plant reserves underground. Corm size and shape vary based on variety, agronomic practices, and ecological factors. Cormels are corms that form on the sides of the main corm. 

Oven-Dried Rice as a Desiccant for Seed Drying

Guinevere Perry, PhD

Seed preservation is an effective tool to promote agrobiodiversity. Seed preservation also increases the cultivation of local plant species better adapted to specific areas, enhances genetic variability in pollinated species, and preserves food security. Seed preservation saves farmers money and improves their chances of increasing crop yields.