Tim Motis, Biriori Dieudonne, and Robert Morikawa
Farmers often struggle to maintain the productive capacity of their soils, especially where they lack enough land for a fallow (rest) period between crops. Leguminous green manure/cover crops (GMCCs) can help; in association with rhizobial bacteria, legumes convert nitrogen from the air into a form that plants can use. Many tropical legumes have deep, extensive root systems that can take up nutrients which leach past the root zones of other crops. Thus, even on poor soil, they can produce an abundance of nutrient-rich, plant-based mulch. When left on the field, this mulch builds soil organic matter and fertility. Legumes also help suppress weeds and, depending on the species, produce beans and foliage for human and/or animal consumption. While these benefits are well-recognized, the benefit of GMCCs to small-scale farmers depends on how well they are integrated into smallholder cropping systems (see BPN 7 for information on legume selection and planting strategies).
In EDN 133 we described a cereal/legume intercropping strategy in which two rows of a cereal crop are alternated with four rows of a legume. This “2:4:2” planting sequence is an outcome of research done by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and national partners, with cowpea as the legume and maize or sorghum as the cereal crop (Ajeigbe et al. 2010). The planting configuration minimizes competition for light. It is best suited to areas where the return from the legume justifies devoting less land area to a cereal crop. Research at ECHO in Florida showed that the system has potential for integrating other legumes besides cowpea into maize, including those with taller canopies than cowpea, such as jack bean (Canavalia ensiformis).
Culantro (Eryngium foetidum) is often confused with, or substituted for, cilantro (Coriandrum sativum L.; also called coriander). Culantro is commonly used in chutneys, curries, soups, and meat and noodle dishes in Asia. Sofrito, a common spice mixture added to many recipes throughout Latin America, consists of culantro, garlic, onion, sweet peppers, tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Culantro’s nutritional benefits include high levels of vitamins A, B2, B1, and C; it is also a rich source of calcium and iron.
Recently, ECHO Community member Brad Ward asked on our online forum about metal silo construction. “I'm going to be building a 3.5 cubic meter metal silo. I have come across a couple of good resources online that cover the topic pretty well, but I would love to hear from those of you who have built and/or implemented silos at the household or community level. Are there some construction tips you could share? What has your experience been with using the silos? If they were used by more than one household, do you have some recommendations for helping to avoid future conflict? Thanks!!”
Brad received feedback from several network members.
“Save the Guacamole!” is the battle cry of a Florida campaign to fight the fungal disease killing avocado (Persea americana) trees throughout Florida. Laurel wilt disease is caused by the fungus Raffaelea lauricola and spread by the redbay ambrosia beetle (Xyleborus glabratus) (Figure 6). The redbay ambrosia beetle (a member of the insect order Coleoptera for the entomologists among you) was first identified in Georgia in 2002. It is thought that this beetle, native to Southeast Asia, was introduced through untreated cargo pallet wood and spread quickly to native redbay (Persea borbonia) and sassafras (Sassafras albidum) trees.