Bergville Annual Progress Report 2019

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APPENDIX2: BERGVILLEANNUAL
PROGRESS REPORT
CA FarmerInnovation Programme for
smallholders in Bergville
Period: October 2018 – September2019
Farmer Centred Innovation in Conservation Agriculture
in upper catchment areas of the Drakensberg in the
Bergville region of KwaZulu-Natal
Compiled by:
Erna Kruger andPhumzile Ngcobo
September 2019
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Project implemented by:
Mahlathini Development Foundation
Promoting collaborative, pro-poor agricultural innovation.
Contact:Erna Kruger (Founder and Coordinator)
Address: 2 Forresters Lane, Pietermaritzburg, 3201, KZN
Email: erna@mahlathiniorganics.co.za, info@mahlathini.org
Cell: 0828732289
Time of operation: 2003-2016
Legal status: NPC
BEE status: 4. Certificate available.
Funded by:
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IDENTIFICATION OF THE PROJECT .............................................................................................5
DESCRIPTION AND SELECTION OF STUDY AREAS.......................................................................................5
APPROACH AND METHODOLOGY................................................................................................5
KEY ACTIVITIES: OCTOBER 2018-SEPTEMBER 2019................................................................6
FINANCIAL REPORTING....................................................................................................................7
PROGRESS.............................................................................................................................................8
RESULTS ACHIEVED TO DATE....................................................................................................10
CA PRACTICE...................................................................................................................................... 12
Year 1(1st level) trial outlines..................................................................................................... 12
Year 2 (2nd level) trial outlines.................................................................................................... 13
Year 3 onwards (3rd level) trial outlines..................................................................................... 13
RAINFALL........................................................................................................................................14
RUNOFF ............................................................................................................................................. 15
Stulwane...................................................................................................................................... 16
Phumelele Hlongwane: Ezibomvini............................................................................................ 17
Ntombakhe Zikode: Eqeleni........................................................................................................ 18
Ndunwana; Boniwe Hlatswhayo ................................................................................................ 19
Conclusions.................................................................................................................................. 20
WATER HOLDING CAPACITY................................................................................................................ 20
Conclusions.................................................................................................................................. 22
GRAVIMETRIC WATER................................................................................................................22
Comparison of gravimetric water content results for two seasons (Phumelele Hlongwane
Ezibomvini) ................................................................................................................................. 25
BULK DENSITY.............................................................................................................................28
SOIL HEALTH................................................................................................................................29
HANEY SOIL HEALTH TESTS PARAMETERS............................................................................................ 29
PLFA ANALYSIS.................................................................................................................................. 39
NITROGEN ......................................................................................................................................... 43
COMPARISON OF SH TEST RESULTS 2015-2018.................................................................................. 44
IMPLEMENTATION SNAPSHOTS ACROSS DIFFERENT VILLAGES...........................................46
LATE BEANS........................................................................................................................................ 47
COVER CROPS..................................................................................................................................... 48
FODDER PRODUCTION AND SUPPLEMENTATION....................................................................................... 49
YIELDS; 2018-2019 PLANTING SEASON .......................................................................................51
YIELDS IN INTERCROPPED AND ROTATED PLOTS..........................................................................53
BEAN YIELDS FOR THE 2018/19 SEASON............................................................................................. 55
FARMER CENTRES .......................................................................................................................55
Case study 1: Ezibomvini Farmers Centre ................................................................................55
Case study 2: Thamela Farmers centre....................................................................................56
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Case study 3: Ndunwana Farmers centre.................................................................................57
Case Study 5: Stulwane Farmers centre...................................................................................58
Case study 6: Emabunzini Farmers centre...............................................................................58
VILLAGE SAVING AND LOAN ASSOCIATIONS..................................................................................60
STAKEHOLDER ENGAGEMENT.......................................................................................................63
MAIZE TRUST BOARD VISIT................................................................................................................... 63
ISSUES, COMMENTS AND SUGGESTIONS......................................................................................64
SUMMARY OF ANNUAL EXPENSES AS ON AUGUST 2019..............................................................65
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Identification of the project
Description and selection of study areas
Work in the Bergville (KwaZulu-Natal) site continued with the 18village learning groups brought
on board in the 2017-2018 season. Attention has been given to consolidating and expanding the
learning groups within each village.The overall number of participants for the Bergville site is
now 348 smallholder farmers with between 1-6 years of experience under conservation
agriculture. This season 14 new participants came on board.
Approach and Methodology
The farmer centred innovation systems research process underpinning the programme, which is
based on working intensively with farmer learning groups and local facilitators in each of the
villages, has been continued and strengthened.
Within the learning groups farmer innovatorsvolunteer to set up and manage farmer-managed
adaptive trials as the ‘learning venues’ for the whole learning group. Farmer Field School
methodologies are used within the group to focus the learning on the actual growth and
development of the crops throughout the season. New ideas are tested against the ‘normal’
practise in the area as the controls. Farmers observe, analyse and assess what is happening in the
trials and discuss appropriate decisions and management practices. Small information provision
and discovery-learning (training)sessions are included in these workshops/ processes. These are
based also on the seasonality of the crop and the specific requests and questions from farmer
learning group participants.
Local facilitators are chosen from within and by members of the learning group to be a person
who has the required experience, knowledge and a willingness to support the other farmer
innovators in their implementation. Facilitators are only chosen and appointed where people
with the appropriate skill and personality exists. Local facilitators receive a stipend for a
maximum of 10 working days per month, for their support to the farmer innovators. They fill in
detailed timesheets outlining their activities against which they claim a monthly stipend.
Learning group members agree to a season long learning process and put forward the farmer
innovators to run the trials. Each prospective innovator is interviewed and visited and signs an
agreement with the GrainSA team regarding their contribution to the process. They undertake to
plant and manage the CA trials according to the processesand protocols introduced as well as a
control plot of the same size. For the latter, farmers provide their own inputs.
The adaptive trials are also used as a focus point for the broader community to engage through
local learning events and farmers’ days. Stakeholders and the broader economic, agricultural and
environmental communities are drawn into these processes and events. Through these events,
Innovation Platforms (IPs)are developed for cooperation, synergy between programmes and
development of appropriate and farmer-led processes for economic inclusion. These IPs also
provide a good opportunity to focus scientific and academic research on the ‘needs’ of the process.
In this season (2018-2019) the projecthascontinued to focus on the following elements of the
model, namely:
a) Support farmers who are in their 1st, 2nd , 3rd , 4th , 5th and 6th seasons,
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b) Conscious inclusion of crop rotation to compare with inter cropping trials,
c) Inclusion of summer cover crops in the crop rotation trials,
d) Continuation with experimentation with winter cover crops, but planted in separate
plots rather than in-between maize,
e) Planting of late season beans,
f) More focussed introduction of lab-lab beans,
g) Fodder production and supplementation and,
h) Initiation of nodes for farmer centres that can offer tools, input packs and advice,
i) Support for existing VSLAs and initiation of new savings groups where requested,
j) Conscious inclusion of the local facilitators in the crop and progress monitoring
processes,
k) Further supply of tools (MBLI planters, animal drawn planters and knapsack
sprayers) to learning groups.
Key activities: October 2018-September 2019
For this season the focus has been on working with the Local facilitators to manage the processes
of distribution of the trial inputs, running the planting demonstration workshops, assisting their
learning group members with planting and monitoring of progress with planting and crop
growth, along with implementation of the co-funded process from LandCare. Support here has
been in the form primarily of seed and fertilizer and for hosting of farmers’ days.
Researcher-managed trial plotshave now been set upin Ezibomvini, Eqeleni, Ndunwana and
Mhlwazini to work on quantitative benchmarking of some of the visual CA indicators being used
in this process.This includes rain gauges, runoffplots, a weather station and gravimetric soil
sampling; with the intention of comparing water balances across control and CA trial plots.
In addition, a training session has been conducted for all field staff and interns in quantitative
measurements as well as initiating the new methodology for Visual Soil Assessments. A small
case study was conducted in Stulwane, alongside a MSc student from the University of Pretoria.
Soil health samples have been taken for 12 participants across five villages, along with 24 soil
fertility samples for new participants (Ezinyonyane, Emahlathini, Emadakaneni, Ndunwane,
Ezibomvini, Stulwane) and 44 repeat samples for existing participants to build a body of
information about the soil fertility and soil health status of the CA trial participants.
Two stakeholder innovation platform event/ farmers’ daywere conducted in collaboration with
KZNDARD and LandCare; Stulwane, November 2018and Emahlathini, March2019. Crossvistis
were conducted for smallholder farmers from Growing Nations in Lesotho (March 2019) and for
the Maize trust board members (May 2019).
The fifteen(15) VSLA’s (Village savings and Loan Associations) have continued.The group
members (258) have saved R880 000 in the last 13month cycle, but very little of these savings
have gone towards the procurement of inputs, as expected.
Progress for the farmer centre in Ezibomvini has again been monitored. Three new farmer
centres have beeninitiated. Small business development training has been offered to the VSLA
members, with a focus on agriculture.
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Financial reporting
Below is a summary of the key result areas and budgets provided under the 2018/19project
cycle.
Table 1: Bergville SFIP budget outline for 2018-2019
Bergville Milestones: Farmer Centred Innovation in CA. October 2018-September 2019
Milestones/
Outputs
Key activities
Outcomes/ deliverables
Capital Equipment
Farmer
experimentation
Bergville
Administration and
sundries
Travel,accommodation, admin,
publications, monitoring and
evaluation
Farmer centred
innovation
systems
Farmer experimentation,
researcher managed
experimentation, savings groups,
farmer centres
Innovation
platforms
Stakeholder meetings, platform
building and events
TOTAL: Oct 2018-Sept 2019
Expenditure by MDF has followed the key activities above. The inputs subsidies paid in by
farmers has amounted to R19 400 for the year. These monies have been ploughed back into the
community by providingrotating loans to the start-up farmer centres, as well as materials for the
fodder supplementation experimentation process initiated.
The table below outlines expenditure on inputs for the 12-month period of this project.
Date
Inputs
Amount
Pd for by
grainSA
Farmer's
payments
2018/10/22
TWK Agri Winterton
R65 330, 30
2019/10/18
AGT Foods; cover crops
R16 175,90
R6 900,00
2019/10/18
AGT Foods; cover crops
R1 932,00
R12 500,00
Sub-total
R 0,00
R 83 438,20
R19 400,00
Total
R64038,20
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Progress
The project is now operational across 18villages in the Bergville area, with a total of 348 learning
group participants and 207 farmer-level trials.
The basic experimental design was followed for all 1st year participants and most of the 2nd year
participants as well. Variations have included crop rotation,intercropping, summer and winter
cover crop mixes, planting of lab-lab beans,late season planting of beans andfodder crops for the
3rd-6th year participants.
The table below outlines activities related to objectives and key indicatorsfor the period of
October 2018 -September 2019.
Table 2:SUMMARY OFPROGRESS (OCTOBER 2018 -SEPTEMBER 2019) RELATEDTOOBJECTIVES AND KEYACTIVITIES
Objectives
Key activities
Summary of progress
% completion and comment
1. Document
lessons
learned
Documentation for
learning and
awareness raising:
Farmer Field School
methodology and process
reports
Farmer level learning
materials; manuals
isiZulu, English (re-print)
Project reports (monthly,
6 monthly and yearly).
Articles and promotional
material to engage
stakeholders in the
broader environment.
- To be done at end of season
- No reprint done
- Monthly reports (Oct2018-Sept
2019) interim and annual report
- Not done
LEGEND
BERGVILLE
SITES:
Ezibomvini
Stulwane
Eqeleni
Emabunzini
Emadakaneni
Emafefetheni
Emahlathini
Mhlwazini
Ndunwana
Ngoba
Vimbukhalo
Magangangozi
Emazimbeni
EMangweni (2)
Nsuka
Okhombe
Thamela
Potshini
Ntabamhlope
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Sharing of information
through various
innovation platforms and
processes; including the
internet, social and
networking platforms and
conferences
-Stulwane and Emahlathini
farmers days, Growing Nations
and MT board cross visits, MDF
Website updated,
(100% completion)
Final report
- 6 monthly interim
reports
- Interim and annual reports
finalised.
(100% completion)
2Increase
focus and
efficiency of
CA systems,
scale out
sustainable
farming
systems
scenarios
and build
social
platforms
Farmer centred
innovations
systems research
Scale out using
information
systems approach.
1st , 2nd , 3rd , 4th , 5th and
6th level experimentation
Develop and manage
PM&E framework;
weekly and monthly M&E
visits
Innovation platform
events- cross visits,
conferences, workshops,
meetings, farmers’ days
Action planning with
innovation platform
events; Major planning
event for experiments
Bi-annual steering
committee meetings
- Undertaken for 19 villages
(100% completion)
- New VSA methodology, staff
training in Quantitative
measurements, pendragon e-
survey for crop monitoring
- Stulwane and Emahlathini
farmers days, Growing Nations
and MT board cross visits
- Small business Dev training for 4
learning groups
- Soil fertility and soil health
learning sessions for 2-3 groups
- Future fodder experimentation
planned in association with AGT
Foods and Cedara Soil Science
dept.
-Mycotoxin research planned in
association with the ARC
(Potchefstroom)
-Planned for Sept 2019
(100% completion)
A performance dashboard is indicated below. This provides a snapshot of performance according
to suggested numbers and outputs in the proposal.
Table 3: PERFORMANCE DASHBOARD; SEPTEMBER2019
Outputs
Proposed (March 2018)
Actual (Feb 2019)
Number of areas of operation
2
2
Number of villages active
19
19
No of 1st level farmer experiments
90
14
No of 2nd level farmer experiments
56
38
No of 3rd level experiments
120
84
No of 4th level experiments
70
37
No of 5th- 6th level experiments
14
24
No of local facilitators
12
9
No of direct beneficiaries
350
207
VSLAs
11
11
Participatory monitoring and
evaluation process (farmer level)
Yes
Yes
10
The extremely dry conditions during the planting season (October-December 2018), linked to
difficulties with providing inputs due to lack of supply through the LandCare process led to a
smaller no of farmer level trials being undertaken. The drought continued through January 2019
and further reduced planting of late season beans and winter cover crops. It also meant that the
2-row planter procured for expansion of CAimplementation and for farmer level
experimentation was not used this season.
Results achieved to date
The framework for scaling out implementation included: Continuation with existing farmer
experimentation options for 1st, 2nd and 3rd level participants and mentoring and monitoring for
4th and 5th yearparticipants. This includes intercropping, crop rotation, late season planting of
beans and combinations of summer and winter cover crop mixes.
The table below outlines the villages, numbers of participants and experimentation processes for
the present learning groups in the Bergville area.
Table 4: ACTIVITIES AND NUMBERS OF FARMERS INVOLVED,PER VILLAGE FOROCTOBER2018-SEPTEMBER 2019.
BERGVILLE
Year started with CA
2018
/19
COMMENTS
Villages
2013
2014
2015
2016
2017
2018
Total
Trials
Emabunzini
9
4
13
7
Intercropping with
hand hoes and
MBLI planters;
Maize, beans,
cowpeas
Emangweni-
Engodini
14
3
3
20
10
1st and 2nd level
experimentation;
intercropping
Emangweni-
Emaqeleni
8
6
14
7
intercropping 1st
level
experimentation;
intercropping
Eqeleni
7
3
4
4
5
23
13
1st, 2nd and 3rd level
experimentation;
MBLI’s hand hoes
and animal drawn
planters;
intercropping crop
rotation summer
and winter cover
crops, late season
beans
Ezimbovini
6
4
10
6
26
24
1st, 2nd and 3rd level
experimentation;
MBLI’s hand hoes
and animal drawn
11
planters;
intercropping crop
rotation summer
and winter cover
crops, late season
beans
Magangangozi
9
1
2
4
16
6
1st and 2nd level
experimentation;
intercropping
Mhlwazini
6
10
7
23
10
1st, 2nd and 3rd level
experimentation;
MBLI’s hand hoes,
intercropping crop
rotation summer
and winter cover
crops, late season
beans
Ngoba
6
5
3
14
9
1st, 2nd and 3rd level
experimentation;
MBLI’s hand hoes
and animal drawn
planters;
intercropping crop
rotation summer
and winter cover
crops, late season
beans
Nsuka-
Zwelisha
11
11
9
Intercropping with
hand hoes and
MBLI planters;
Maize, beans,
cowpeas
Okhombe
5
6
6
7
24
14
1st and 2nd level
experimentation;
intercropping
Potshini
1
1
0
3rd level
experimentation
Stulwane
7
4
2
3
5
21
18
1st, 2nd and 3rd level
experimentation;
MBLI’s hand hoes
and animal drawn
planters;
intercropping crop
rotation summer
and winter cover
crops, late season
beans, fodder
crops
Thamela
11
6
17
13
Intercropping with
hand hoes and
MBLI planters;
Maize, beans,
cowpeas
12
Thunzini
21
5
26
6
Intercropping with
hand hoes and
MBLI planters;
Maize, beans,
cowpeas
Vimbukhalo
8
4
10
6
28
6
1st and 2nd level
experimentation;
intercropping, crop
rotation, Lab-Lab,
SCC
Ndunwana
14
5
6
25
21
1st and 2nd level
experimentation;
intercropping
Emahlathini
12
12
12
Intercropping with
hand hoes and
MBLI planters;
Maize, beans,
cowpeas
Emazimbeni
10
9
3
22
17
Intercropping with
hand hoes and
MBLI planters;
Maize, beans,
cowpeas
Emafefetheni
12
5
1st and 2nd level
experimentation;
intercropping
Grand Total
18
41
59
125
94
14
348
207
15,2ha ha trials;
~4ha controls
348 Participants across 19villages have joined the CA experimentation process between 2013-
2018 and have been implementing the CA trials for between 1-5 seasons. This year 207 trials have
been planted of whom 14 participants started this season for the first time.
The level of planting of CA control plots-normal planting for participants-was very low;again
due to the very dry conditions and late planting dates for this season.
CA practice
After the 3rd year, the farmer experimentation protocols for each farmer participant is defined by
their own preferences, given that those farmers with more experience can now incorporate some
of their own learnings and preferences in the trials, but the 1st and 2nd level trial participants still
need to get used to the overall CA planting process and thus the close spacing intercropping trial
plots are ‘prescribed’ for them.
The protocols are outlined below:
Year 1(1st level) trial outlines
Experimental design is pre-defined by the researchteam (based on previous implementation in
the area in an action research process with smallholders). It includes a number of different
aspects:
Intercropping of maize, beans and cowpeas
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Introduction of OPV and hybrid varieties for comparison (1 variety of maize and beans
respectively)
Close spacing (based on Argentinean model)
Mixture of basin and row planting models
Use of no till planters (hand held and animal drawn)
Use of micro-dosing of fertilizers based on a generic recommendation from local soil
samples
Herbicides sprayed before and/or at planting
Decis Forteor Kemprinused at planting and top dressing stage for cutworm and stalk
borer
Planting of cover crops; winter mix in Autumn
Experimental design includes 2 treatments; planter type (2) and intercrop (2)
Year 2 (2nd level) trial outlines
Based on evaluation of experiment progress for year 1, this includes the addition of options that
farmers choose from. Farmers also take on spraying and plot layout themselves:
A number of different OPV and hybrid varieties for maize
A number of different options for legumes (including summer cover crops)
Planting method of choice
Comparison of single crop and inter cropping planting methods
Use of specific soil sample results for fertilizer recommendations
Early planting and
Own choices.
Year 3 onwards (3rd level) trial outlines
Based on evaluation of the experimentation process to date this protocol includes issues of cost
benefit analysis, bulk buying for input supply, jointactions around storage, processing and
marketing. Farmers design their experiments for themselves to include some of the following
potential focus areas:
Early planting; with options to deal with more weeds and increased stalk borer pressure.
Herbicide mix to be used pre and at planting (Round up, Dual Gold, Gramoxone)
A pest control programme to include dealing with CMR beetles
Intercropping vs crop rotation options
Spacing in single block plantings
Use of composted manure for mulching and soil improvement in combination with
fertilizer, or singly.
Soil sample results and specific fertilizer recommendations
Planting of Dolichos and other climbing beans
Summer and winter cover crops; crop mixes, planting dates, management systems,
planting methods (furrows vs scatter)
Seed varieties; conscious decisions around POVs, hybrids and GM seeds
Cost benefit analysis of chosen options
Fodder crop and supplementation experimentation and
Farmer level monitoring of trials for selected individuals.
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Rainfall
This season rain gauges were installed in six villages within the Bergville study site. The
monthly average rainfall data forthese gauges are summarised in the table below and are
compared to the local weather station data (Davis weather station in Ezibomvini)
Table 5: Rainfall data for 6 villages in the Bergville site; September 2018-May 2019
Rainfall (mm/month) 2018-2019 summer rainfall season; Bergville villages
Village
Weather station
(Ezibomvini)
Month
Stulwane
Ndunwana
Ezibomvini
Eqeleni
Emhlwazin
i
Thamela
Average
Rain (mm/
month)
ETc
(mm/
day)
Sep-18
5
71
15
30,3
5,8
154,36
Oct-18
19,5
28
6
17,8
24,6
117,47
Nov-18
106
68,1
180
74,8
47,7
95,3
50,4
148,16
Dec-18
64
22
61
64
76,5
52
56,6
80
152,34
Jan-19
57
321
27,5
258,5
290,4
97
175,2
70,6
142,01
Feb-19
135
253
218,7
254
171,8
356
231,4
139,8
108
Mar-19
177,5
73
214
205,5
63,2
66
133,2
212,4
100
Apr-19
136,5
63
89
67
53
81,7
149,9
100
May-19
0
0
0
0
0
0
0,0
11
84,92
TOTALS
594,5
937
699,3
1029
676,7
671,7
768,0
744,5
1107,26
Note: values in dark grey were estimated from online weather data for the period as the weather station was faulty
during this period
The seasonal average for the rain gauges and weather station compare quite well at 768mm and
744mm respectively. This can be considered a reasonably high rainfall for this area, but given
the extremely late onset of rain and the high evapotranspiration values for this season, crop
growth was severely hampered.
The average rainfall recorded for the 2017-2018 season for December- May was averaged at
563mm. For this season in the same time period the average rainfall was 678mm. The actual
evapotranspiration (Etc) for 2017-2018 was however substantially lower at 702,8 mm than
this year, which was calculated at 1107,3 mm for the season. This indicates the major difference
between the two seasons and why the crops fared so badly this year, even with higher rainfall
than last year.
This observation is supported by a number of other studies, indicating the evaporative potential
in a growing season has a much greater potential effect on maize yield potential than overall
rainfall and temperature, as explained in the quote below:
“Recent studies indicate that the negative effect of high summer temperatures is due less to effects
on reproductive growth (e.g., heat damage between anthesis and silking, reducing pollen and grain
set) and more to increased moisture stress driven by vapor pressure deficit (VPD). Rising VPD
increases evapotranspiration, which has a two-fold impact on crop moisture stress: 1)
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photosynthesis declines as crops that are unable to meet transpirative demand reduce their
stomatal conductance and 2) soil water supply to the crop declines due to increased evaporation
from the soil surface”
1
These authors proposed the need for increased soil organic matter to effect greater water
holding capacity (WHC) in the soil to mitigate these effects. They also state that “Other strategies
will be required to complement WHC increases, such as crop genetic improvement, cropping
system design, and irrigation technologies, among others”.
Runoff
This season 4 farmers managed runoff plots in their CA trials alongside their rain gauges to
ascertain the difference in runoff between the conservation agriculture trial plots and a
conventional control plot. The results are summarised below.
Data is summarised on a monthly basis, with the understanding that the runoff is generally
related to amount and intensity of rainfall as well as dryness of the soil. Given that the soils in
Bergville are high clay soils they also tend to be quite compacted and become extremely hard
when dry. This could lead to increased runoff, but this depends on the intensity of the rainfall
events.
Table 6: Runoff results for 4 participants across Bergville; 2018-2019
Ndunwana
Ezibomvini
Eqeleni
Runoff CA
Trial(ml)
Runoff Control
(ml)
Runoff CA
Trial(ml)
Runoff Control
(ml)
Runoff CA
Trial(ml)
Runoff Control
(ml)
Runoff CA
Trial(ml)
Runoff Control
(ml)
Nov-18
2808,0
3267,0
Dec-18
3 343
2 600
11
14
35,2
39,5
5 800
5750
Jan-19
5 900
2 250
305
348
30,8
31,0
10 000
12750
Feb-19
3 266
6 275
471
609
66,0
74,5
12710
13 250
Mar-19
2 423
1 615
69
117
24,1
27,5
9 800
9 000
Apr -19
4 836
5 875
41
29
2,7
2,3
4 000
4 000
Average
Nov-Apr
3 954
3 723
179,4
223,4
494,5
573,6
8 500
8950
From the table above it can be seen that for 3 of the 4 villages the runoff in the CA trial plots
were on average lower than the conventional control plots. The difference in runoff between the
CA trial and conventional control plots is not as significant as it has been in previous years. This
is likely due to the larger number of small rainfall events this season. In addition, because of the
1
Williams A, Hunter M.C, Kammerer M,. Kane D.A, Jordan N.R, Mortensen D.A, Smith R.G, Snapp S,
and. Davis A.S. 2016. Water Holding Capacity Mitigates Downside Risk and Volatility in US Rainfed
Maize: Time to Invest in Soil Organic Matter?Published: August 25,
2016https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0160974Soil.
16
difficult growing season none of the plots (M+B, M+CP and M only), were well covered with a lot
of exposed soil, with a lot more erosion evident than in previous seasons.
In the section below the effect of different cropping options within each of the CA trials is
explored in more detail.
Stulwane
Table 7: Runoff results or different cropping options within the CA trial; Stulwane 2018-2019
Stulwane; Nelisiwe Msele
Rainfall
CA Plot 1
(M+CP)
CA Plot 3
(Maize)
CA Plot
6
(Beans)
CA Plot
9
(M+CP)
CA average
Conventional
Control
mm
ml
ml
ml
ml
ml
Dec-18
64
3 750
1 170
4 100
4 350
3 343
2 600
Jan-19
57
11 000
9 600
2 000
1 000
5 900
2 250
Feb-19
135
4 995
2 955
2 135
2 980
3 266
6 275
Mar-19
177,5
3 950
1 050
0
2 270
2 423
1 615
Apr-19
136,5
6 333
3 910
6 100
3 000
4 836
5 875
Average seasonal runoff
3 954
3 723
For Nelisiwe Msele the expected trend of higher runoff on the CA plots early in the season,
leading into lower runoff values towards the end of the season is clearly visible, as is the trend
for the conventional (ploughed control) of having less runoff early in the season and higher
runoff as the season progresses. This trend has been recorded in the literature and can be
explained through increased macropores in the soil after ploughing, that gradually collapse
throughout the season to lead to higher compaction in the soil. Soils under CA are also generally
more compacted, but aggregate stability and micropores are present that improve water
infiltration and water holding capacity (Cavalieri et al., 2009, Basset ,T.S 2010)
2
.
Overall the CA plots for Nelisiwe had slightly greater average runoff than her conventional
control plot. She has been practicing CA for 5 years, but her soil cover has been recorded at
between 1-5% over the years; meaning that it has remained very low primarily due to grazing
of stray livestock.
If one considers the percentage rainfall that has been converted to runoff, as shown in the small
table below, it can be seen that this percentage is quite low, averaging 4,6% for the CA trial plots
and 4,3% for the conventional control plot. This can be related to the general stability of high %
clay soils as well as the reasonably high percentage of organic matter (OM), namely 4,3% in the
CA trial plot.
Table 8: Percentage rainfall converted to runoff for CA trial and conventional control plots in Stulwane; 2018-2019
2
Cavalieri K.M.V., da Silva A.P., Tormena C.A., Leão T.P., Dexter A.R. and Håkansson I., 2009.
Long-term effects of no-tillage on soil physical properties in a Rhodic Ferrasol in Paraná,
Brazil. Soil and Tillage Research, 103 (158-164).
Basset, T.S. 2010. A comparison of the effects of tillage on Soil physical properties and microbial
Activity at different levels of nitrogen Fertilizer at Gourton farm, Loskop, Kwazulu-Natal. MSC thesis.
Dept of Soil Science, UKZN.
17
Percentage rainfall converted to runoff
Rainfall
CA
Conv
mm
Dec-18
64
5,2%
4,1%
Jan-19
57
10,4%
3,9%
Feb-19
135
2,4%
4,6%
Mar-19
177,5
1,4%
0,9%
Apr-19
136,5
3,5%
4,3%
Average % runoff
4,6%
3,6%
Phumelele Hlongwane: Ezibomvini
Table 9: Runoff results or different cropping options within the CA trial; Ezibomvini 2018-2019
Phumelele Hlongwane: Ezibomvini
Rainfall
runoff (ml)
mm
CA Plot 2
(M+CP)
CA Plot 6
(M+B)
CA Plot
9
(Maize)
CA trial
ave
CA
control
Conven
contrl
Sep-18
15
Oct-18
6
Nov-18
68,1
2393,0
2016,0
4015,0
2808,0
3267,0
Dec-18
61
35,0
37,0
33,5
35,2
39,5
Jan-19
27,5
35,1
29,4
28,0
30,8
31,0
1007,5
Feb-19
218,7
60,0
72,5
65,5
66,0
74,5
16,5
Mar-19
214
31,7
21,2
19,5
24,1
27,5
3,0
Apr-19
89
4,0
2,0
2,0
2,7
2,3
1,8
Ave Seasonal
runoff
426,5
363,0
693,9
494,5
573,6
257,2
Phumelele has converted most of her farming to CA. She is in her 5th year of implementation.
This year we attempted to find a conventional control plot; the plot selected was planted to
sweet potatoes, which means it was cultivated. For Phumelele her % soil cover linked to crop
residues or stover is around 10%, given that she has fenced her field and control her livestock’s
grazing in this field. Although this percentage is still quite low, it is in fact substantially higher
than for those participants who do not practice controlled grazing, which is the vast majority of
participants. It is also lower this season, given that she has had cover of between 20-35% in
previous seasons. It is likely an indication of the lack of winter grazing in the area, due to
difficult climatic conditions and Phumelele’s temptation to allow the cattle to graze more of the
residue as a result.
This season the average seasonal runoff in her Maize only CA plot was substantially higher than
for her intercropped plots (M+B and M+CP). As Phumelele rotates the crops in her plot every
season, it would appear that the differences in runoff between the plots is related a lot more to
the specific soil properties in each plot, than the specific seasonal cropping option. This result
may also be linked to canopy cover this season, growth of the crops was impeded by the
18
weather conditions and canopy cover was never reached, while in the previous season full
canopy cover had been reached by the end of January.
If one considers the percentage rainfall that has been converted to runoff, as shown in the small
table below, it can be seen that this percentage is very low, averaging 0,95% for the CA trial
plots, 1,11% for the CA control plots and 0,36% for the conventional control plot. In Phumelele’s
case her %OM is 3,6% for her CA Trial plot and 2,9% for her conventional control. It is unclear
why the runoff for the conventional control plot is lower than that of the CA trial. It is possible
that the slope of the runoff pans were not well calibrated and that the cultivation practices for
sweet potatoes provide for different runoff conditions in this plot. In retrospect, using a field
allocated to a different crop may not have been such a good idea. The trend for lower runoff
from the CA trial plot, when compared to the CA control plot, which has been observed in the 2
previous seasons has continued into this season.
The percentage rainfall converted to runoff for Phumelele is substantially lower than that of
Nelisiwe (presented above) and attests to her continued good soil management practices.
Table 10: Percentage rainfall converted to runoff for CA trial and conventional control plots in Ezibomvini; 2018-2019
Percentage rainfall converted to runoff
mm (Weather
station)
CA trial
CA control
Conv control
Nov-18
50,4
5,57%
6,48%
Dec-18
80
0,04%
0,05%
Jan-19
70,6
0,04%
0,04%
1,43%
Feb-19
139,8
0,05%
0,05%
0,01%
Mar-19
212,4
0,01%
0,01%
0,00%
Apr-19
149,9
0,00%
0,00%
0,00%
Average %
runoff
0,95%
1,11%
0,36%
Ntombakhe Zikode: Eqeleni
Table 11: Runoff results or different cropping options within the CA trial; Eqeleni 2018-2019
Ntombakhe Zikode; Eqeleni
Rainfall
Runoff (l)
mm
CA plot
1
CA plot 2
CA plot
3
CA Ave
CA
Control
Convenl
Control
Control
Ave
Dec-18
64
5,5
5,5
6,5
5,8
5
6,5
5,75
Jan-19
258,5
10
10,5
9,5
10,0
13
12,5
12,75
Feb-19
254
14
10,5
13,5
12,7
14
12,5
13,25
Mar-19
205,5
9
9
11,5
9,8
8,5
9,5
9
Apr-19
67
4
4
4
4,0
3,5
4,5
4
Ave Seasonal
runoff
8,5
7,9
9
8,5
8,8
9,1
8,95
19
Ntombakhe Zikode is in her 6th year of CA implementation. She also employs a combination of
multi-cropping and crop rotation in her CA trial and has improved her soil management
practices substantially over the last five years. Because of pressure from livestock in the area,
her soil cover from stover is still low; averaging around 3-5%. In addition, the %OM in her CA
trial plot averages around 1,9%, which shows some improvement, but is still quite low for the
area.
It can be seen from the table above that her runoff from both her CA trial plots (Ave 8,8l) are
quite high and much higher than those for Ezibomvini (Ave 0,5l) and Stulwane (Ave 4,4l).This
points towards the damage of her soil caused by long term monocropping and ploughing and
the length of time required to re-build her soil. Ntombakhe has ploughed her fields regularly for
many years, unlike Nelisiwe, who has only done this occasionally and Phumelele who has
always tilled by hand.
Table 12: Percentage rainfall converted to runoff for CA trial and conventional control plots in Eqeleni; 2018-209
Percentage rainfall converted to runoff
mm
CA trial
CA control
Conv
control
Dec-18
64
9,38%
7,81%
10,16%
Jan-19
258,5
3,87%
5,03%
4,84%
Feb-19
254
5,00%
5,51%
4,92%
Mar-19
205,5
4,77%
4,14%
4,62%
Apr-19
67
5,97%
5,22%
6,72%
Average % runoff
5,80%
5,54%
6,25%
Predictably, the percentage rainfall converted to runoff in Ntobmakhe’s plots is much higher as
well. Runoff in her CA plots 9both the trial and the control) is lower than her conventionally
tilled plot.
Ndunwana; Boniwe Hlatswhayo
Table 13: Runoff results or different cropping options within the CA trial; Ndunwana 2018-2019
She is in her 4th year of CA implementation and still following the 400m2trial layout of 2 plots of
M+B and M+CP intercrops. She has received good yields averaging around 9,6t/ha for her maize
in the 2017-2018 season. For the CA trail plot the organic matter has been recorded at 2,9% and
Nduwane; Boniwe Hlatshwayo
Rainfall
CA runoff
(M+B)
Conventional
runoff
mm
ml
ml
Dec-18
22
11
14
Jan-19
321
305
348
Feb-19
253
471
609
Mar-19
73
69
117
Apr-19
63
41
29
Average seasonal runoff
179,4
223,4
20
for her conventional control plot at 2,75%. Boniwe recorded very low runoff values, for both
her CA and conventional control plotswith a lower average seasonal runoff value for the CA
plots.
Table 14: Percentage rainfall converted to runoff for CA trial and conventional control plots in Ndunwana; 2018-2019
Percentage rainfall converted to runoff
mm
CA trial
Conv control
Dec-18
22
0,05%
0,06%
Jan-19
321
0,10%
0,11%
Feb-19
253
0,19%
0,24%
Mar-19
73
0,09%
0,16%
Apr-19
63
0,07%
0,05%
Average % runoff
0,10%
0,12%
Boniwe’s percentage of rainfall converted to runoff results are very low and are similar to those
for Phumelele in Ezibomvini. This provides some weight to the argument that in the longer
term, hand tillage, followed by CA has led to stable, well- structured soils.
Conclusions
Runoff for the 2018-2019 season was much lower than the runoff measured in the two
previous seasons, despite the fact that the overall rainfall was not that different. This can
be attributed mainly to the rainfall intensity and periodicity but also to slowly
improving organic matter content in the soil
Historical land management practices have a large effect on the localised soil structure
and soil health. It may take many seasons to rebuild a living soil with good aggregate
stability and the related characteristics of reduced runoff and improved infiltration.
There is evidence that those smallholder farmers who have always practiced hand
tillage have soils that are in a much better state than those who ploughed continuously
prior to starting their CA implementation.
Even within the CA trial plots (which are divided into 10m2 blocks), there can be
considerable variation in soil quality, which again is related to historical management
practices. It is considered that the differences in runoff between these blocks is related
much more to the differences in historical land management practices than the different
cropping options presently implemented.
On average, the mixed cropped CA trial plots show less runoff than the CA control plots
which have been mono cropped to maize.
For this season, the conventional control plots (ploughed) have on average shown less
runoff than the CA trial plots. Although there has been a steady, but slow increase in
percentage soil organic carbon (and %SOM) in the CA trial plots, the comparison of
these CA plots with newly ploughed conventional plots has been problematic. As will be
discussed in the following section, we have battled to find appropriate conventionally
tilled plots, as the farmers in question have converted all their production to CA.
Water holding capacity
In the Bergville area, the WHC (water holding capacity) of the soil is naturally high, given the
high clay content and reasonably high SOM content (2-4%). A study conducted with 5
participating smallholder farmers in Stulwane, by a Soil Science Masters student from the
University of Pretoria (Palesa Motaung), confirms these generalisations.
21
As in many of our present analyses, students, interns and fieldworkers battle to conceptualise
the importance of control samples and also battle to find appropriate controls as in many
cases the farmers that we are now working with for these measurements have moved across to
CA for their entire cropping areas and do not have conventional tillage control plots. In Palesa
Motaung’s study, given that she is focussing on soil health aspects, she used veld samples as her
controls.
She has used both the Visual Soil Assessment methodology refined by our team as well as the
Cornell comprehensive soil health assessment framework which uses chemical, biological and
physical soil measurements to provide indices
3
and scores for soil health.
Among the soil health tests that she conducted, she calculated available water holding capacity
(AWC) for the following plots for five 5thyear CA farming participants in Stulwane:
CA maize only
Ca maize and beans
Veld
The results are shown in the small table below
Water holding capacity (g water per g
soil)
Treatment average of 5 farmers
(Stulwane)
0,58
CA maize only
0,58
CA maize and beans
0,62
Veld
The AWC is the amount of water available to plants between the field capacity and wilting
points for the particular soil. For the samples tested, the AWC is scored at 100% for all three
treatments (CA maize only, CA maize and beans and Veld). This means that the water holding
capacity of the soils in our study area are high. In addition, the water holding capacity of the CA
trials are very close to the veld benchmark, indicating the benefit of the implemented CA
system. The system consists of rotated plots of different combinations of mono-cropped maize,
legumes and cover crops.
Table 15: Soil quality scores provided by the Cornell soil assessment framework for 5 participants in Stulwane; 2018-
2019
Treatment
Overall
Quality
Score
Overall
Biological
Quality Score
Overall Chemical
Quality Score
Overall Physical
Quality Score
Description
Soil organic
matter, active
carbon, microbial
respiration
Extractable P, K
and pH
Available water
capacity, wet
aggregate stability
CA Maize Only
60,7
48,2
62,6
76,7
3
B.N. Moebius-Clune, D.J. Moebius-Clune, B.K. Gugino, O.J. Idowu, R.R. Schindelbeck, A.J. Ristow,
H.M. van Es, J.E. Thies, H.A. Shayler, M.B. McBride, K.S.M. Kurtz, D.W. Wolfe, and G.S. Abawi
.2017. Comprehensive Assessment of Soil Health. The Cornell Framework. Third Edition. Cornell
University, Ithaca New York.
22
CA Maize & Beans
54,7
43,2
51,2
77,3
Veld
63,0
56,4
61,1
75,9
The differences in the scores between the CA maize only and CA maize and bean plots were to
some extent artificial and related to sampling, rather than the treatments. Extractable P for
example was extremely high for a few of the CA plotsbut were likely due to recent fertilization
rather than an overall over supply of P in the soil, but led to much lower scores, as indicated in
the pink shaded block of the table above.
For 3 of the 5 participants, the scores for biological properties were lower for their CA maize
and bean plots than for their CA maize only plots as indicated in the blue shaded block in the
table above. A trend that has been noticed already in this research process is that soil quality
within participants’ fields can vary considerably and that microbial respiration and active
carbon also varies considerably between the different treatments in a 10- block layout
(10mx10m blocks). Treatments consist of monocropping and intercropping mixes, with cover
crops, which are rotated. This variation is not directly related to the present crop combination
in the block, or rather there have been no discernible trends in the data recorded to date. A
trend that has been noticed, is that the participants who have used both intercropping and crop
rotation in their experimental blocks, have higher average values for these biological properties.
It is postulated here that the basic soil quality within these farmersfields differ markedly due to
a combination of historical management practices, and natural variability and that the CA
management practices will even these differences out over time.
Conclusions
The practice of CA has improved the physical properties of the soil over time, to the
extent that both water holding capacity and aggregate stability for the CA fields are
higher than for natural veld in the area (this is a high benchmark for comparison)
The CA practices have also improved the pH and nutrient availability in the soil
(extractable P and K) to levels equivalent to and higher than the natural veld benchmark
Gravimetric water
The intention of doing the gravimetric water calculations is twofold;
1. To gain a visual representation of water availability in the soil for different cropping
options within the CA system and
2. To ascertain trends in water holding capacity in the soil, given the assumption that CA
and specifically multi- cropping options within the CA system improves the water
holding capacity of the soil.
Results from a gravimetric water content analysis in and of itself, cannot fully answer these
questions, as there are numerous factors at play and a much more in-depth analysis would be
required. This process has thus been exploratory in nature.
This process has been conducted for the last two seasons.
For the 2017-2018 season samples were taken for three participants (Phumelele Hlongwane,
Ntombakhe Zikode and Zodwa Zikode), for different crop combinations within the CA trials (M,
23
M+B, M+CP, SCC). The results were quite confusing and were only written up for one of the
participants- Phumelele Hlongwane.
This season only one set of soil samples (Phumelele Hlongwane) were taken for gravimetric soil
water assessments, given the time- consuming nature of this activity. These samples would give
an indication of soil water content at different depths (30cm, 60cm, 90cm and 120cm), at
different stages of crop growth, during the season. Samples were combined for her CA trial and
were also taken for a CA control and a conventional control plot.
Right and Far
Right:: Taking
the
gravimetric
soil samples in
Phumelele’s CA
trial plot, at
planting
(2018/11/07)
Below is Phumelele Hlongwane’s 1000m2 CA trial plot layout (2018/2019). Green shading
indicates plots where gravimetric sampling was done.
Plot 5
M
Plot 4
M+B
Plot 3
M+CP
Plot 2
M+CP
Plot 1
SCC
Plot 6
M+B
Plot 7
M+B
Plot 8
M+B
Plot 9
M
Plot 10
LAB LAB
Phumelele took a risk and planted a lot earlier in the season than most of the other farmers in
the area, who planted towards the end of November and early December only. Her crops
suffered considerably from the continued lack of rain and high temperatures prevailing during
November and December 2018.
Table 16: Gravimetric soil water sampling dates, compared to average monthly rainfall data
Gravimetric water samples taken
Date of sampling
Average rainfall
for the sampling
period
Planting (0 days)
2018/11/07
50
Establishment (4-6 leaf stage) (20-30 days)
2019/01/01
80
Vegetative growth (40-50 days)
2019/02/12
101
Productive stage (tasselling) (60-70 days) and
2019/03/14
212
Harvesting (physiological maturity) (80-110
days).
2019/04/25
150
24
The table above indicates the trend noticed by the farmers; that the rainfall during the
establishment and early vegetative growth stages of the crop was not enough to sustain growth
and rainfall towards the end of the season was unusually high, hampering maturation of the
crops.
Germination and early growth were hampered, but maize growth in the later vegetative stages
improved. Growth of the leguminous crops, specifically beans, was severely hampered, with
almost zero harvests recorded. Lab-lab (Dolichos) and cowpeas survived well, even under these
stressfull conditions. Of the summer cover crops the Sunhemp and millet (babala) survived well,
but sunflowers did not. The photos taken below for Phumllele Hlongwane are indicative.
Right to far-Right:
Growth of different
crops, towards the end
of the productive phase
(2019/04/11);
Dolichos, Sunhemp and
millet (Babala)
Right: Cowpeas grew
well, but because of
heavy rains in the
productive phase did
not seed well
Far Right: Maize
germination was patchy
and growth was
compromised. Late rains
caused a lot of damage to
cobs.
25
Comparison of gravimetric water content results for two seasons (Phumelele
Hlongwane Ezibomvini)
For the 2017-2018 season, calculations for gravimetric water content between the different
cropping options were in fact very similar; meaning that the water content at the different
depths were similar within each of the cropping options. There were some interesting
differences between the cropping options.
The figure below indicates the results at 30cm depth.
Figure 1: Gravimetric water content at 30cm depth for different cropping options (Phumelele Hlongwane, 2017-2018)
From the figure above the following trends can be seen:
At establishment, vegetative stage, productive and harvesting; for depths 30,60,90,120
the values are similar within each plot of the CA trial for 2017-2018, meaning the water
content of the whole profile was similar in each plot (results for 60cm-120cm are not
shown here)
The water content for the plot planted to Lab-Lab beans (Dolichos) remained higher
than the other plots for most of the season. The assumption here is that the mulching
capability of the Dolichos reduced the evaporation and improved soil water content.
The soil water content for the summer cover crops, Plot 9, was lower than for the other
cropping options in the trial plots for the entire season. This provides a reasonably clear
indication that the SCC used more water than the other crop combinations tested (Lab-
Lab beans, maize and cowpea intercrop and beans). For the vegetative and productive
growth period the measurements of 0,11 and 0,1 (g/g) of water to soil is considered
suboptimal for unimpeded growth.
Generally, the CA control and the CA trial plots had similar gravimetric water content
readings for the season, indicating the water holding capacity of the soil is not changed
greatly by the particular cropping options within the CA farming system.
Establishment VegetativeProductiveHarvesting
30 Plot 5 (Lab lab)0.25 0.20 0.18 0.18
30 Plot 6 (M+CP)0.19 0.01 0.14 0.17
30 Plot 8 (B)0.19 0.13 0.14 0.16
30 Plot 9 (SCC)0.18 0.11 0.10 0.13
30 Control (M+B)0.17 0.36 0.13 0.16
0.00
0.05
0.10
0.15
0.20
0.25
0.30
0.35
0.40
Ave grav water (g/g)
Phumelele Hlongwane 30cm; 2017-2018
26
The gravimetric water content for the maize and cowpea intercrop (Plat 6), indicates a
severe dip in water content in the soil during the vegetative growth phase. It is not clear
why this would be the case, but it could be an indication of temporary competition for
water between the maize and cowpeas in the vegetative growth stage although the
severity of the result (0,01 g/g) would rather indicate an error in sampling and analysis.
In general, these results indicate that the water holding capacity of these soils under the CA
system of mixed cropping and crop rotation supported good growth of all crop combinations in
this season.
To compare the results of 2017-2018 with the present season (2018-2019), the results for all
trail plots were combined and averaged and were then compared to the CA control and a
conventional control (2018-2019 only). These results are shown in the two figures below.
Figure 2: Comparison of gravimetric water content results between 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 season, for CA trial and
control plots for Phumelele Hlongwane (Ezibomvini)
From the above figures the following observations can be made:
Establishment VegetativeProductiveHarvesting
30 CA trial0.20 0.11 0.14 0.16
30 CA control0.17 0.36 0.13 0.16
0.00
0.05
0.10
0.15
0.20
0.25
0.30
0.35
0.40
Ave grav atwr g/g
Phumelele Hlongwane 30cm; 2017-2018
PlantingEstablishment VegetativeProductiveHarvesting
30
CA trial0.13 0.69 0.09 0.19 0.11
CA control0.68 0.710.15 0.13
Conv control0.14 0.14 0.15 0.11 0.14
0.00
0.10
0.20
0.30
0.40
0.50
0.60
0.70
0.80
Ave grav water g/g
Phumelele Hlongwane 30cm; 2018-2019
27
Overall the water content was lower at the beginning of the season and higher at the end
of the season for 2018-2019, when compared to 2017-2018. This trend follows the
rainfall patterns and ETo for these two periods.
For the 2018-2109 season the water content for the CA control for the planting and
establishment phases is relatively high. It then dips sharply during the vegetative phase
(result missing)
For the CA trial plot water content during the establishment stage is high and dips
sharply to a value below optimal growth during the vegetative growth stage.
The gravimetric water content for the CA trial and CA control is higher during the
productive phase than the conventional control for the 2018-2019 indicating potential
for better production from the CA plots.
During the harvesting phase the water content for the CA trial plot for 2018-2019 is
lower than the two control plots. This is likely an indication of continued active growth
of the cover crops and lab-Lab beans planted in the trial.
The only conclusion that could confidently be drawn from these results is that the soil water
content of the vegetative growth stage in 2018-2019, for the CA trial and CA control pots was
well below the levels required for unimpeded crop growth. The high water content values are
not congruent with the rainfall and ETc data gathered for this season and are hard to explain
unless per chance samples were taken very soon after rainfall events.
What can be seen from this figure is the following:
There is a great reduction in water content in the soil, throughout the profile (30-120cm
depth) moving from the vegetative to productive stages and in fact there is too little
water in the soil during that period to sustain the crop growth as a gravimetric water
content in clay-loam soils of 0,11 -0,14 (g/g) is required as a minimum prior to wilting
point being reached
The CA trial plots recovered well during the productive phase and indicate a higher soil
water content than both the control plots throughout the soil profile. This points
towards better water holding capacity in these soils linked to the multi cropping options
and shows also that the potential competition during the vegetative growth phase did
not continue into the productive phase
30 60 9012030 60 9012030 60 9012030 60 9012030 60 90120
PlantingEstablishment VegetativeProductiveHarvesting
CA control0.68 0.51 0.44 0.17 0.71 0.39 0.31 0.160.15 0.16 0.19 0.09 0.13 0.11 0.12 0.12
CA trial0.13 0.14 0.27 0.11 0.69 0.49 0.21 0.14 0.09 0.14 0.16 0.18 0.19 0.23 0.26 0.22 0.11 0.12 0.08 0.09
Conv control0.14 0.12 0.11 0.14 0.14 0.12 0.140.15 0.08 0.150.11 0.63 0.07 0.14 0.14 0.15 0.17 0.17
0.00
0.10
0.20
0.30
0.40
0.50
0.60
0.70
0.80
Ave grav water g/g
Phumelele Hlongwane 30-120cm; 2018-2019
28
Towards the end of the season (harvesting stage) the deeper soil levels have dried out
considerably for the CA trial, more so than the control plots; indicating an increased
drying in the lower levels of the soil profile for the multi-species CA trial. This is likely
due to the continued growth of the Lab-Lab beans and cover crops, which were not
present in the control plots.
Overall, for both seasons, the gravimetric soil water content of the CA trials are somewhat lower
than the CA control plots. This indicates that the multi-cropping options used in the CA trial use
more water than a monocropping option (such as used in the CA controls). This result is not
unexpected. There is also an indication that the multi-cropping led to decreased water
availability during the vegetative growth phase for the 2018-2019 season, which could in turn
affect the maize yields for this season. The beans intercropped with maize died back during this
period and no yields have been recorded. Cowpeas however, survived well. This provides a
good indication of the drought tolerance of cowpeas. For the summer cover crop combination,
sunflowers also died during this vegetative growth phase due to water shortages, but the millet
and Sunhemp survived well and seeded. Interestingly the water content is much improved for
the CA trial when compared to the CA and conventional controls- indicating a good recovery for
the CA trial plots in this phase
Bulk Density
Below is a summary of the results of the bulk density calculations for different cropping
practices within the CA system of the three participants. They were chosen for having differing
period of cropping under CA and for inclusion of a number of practices within their CA system;
namely intercropping and planting of summer cover crops (SCC).
Table 17: Bulk density (pb) results for three CA participants
Village
Period
under CA
(yrs)
Name and
Surname
Control CT
Control CA
M
M+B
M+CP
SCC
Average
Ezibomvini
4
Phumelele Hlongwane
1,30
1,36
1,38
1,33
1,38
1,28
1,34
Eqeleni
5
Ntombakhe Zikode
1,35
1,49
1,37
1,32
1,38
Thamela
1
Mkhuliseni Zwane
1,14
1,08
1,09
1,07
1,10
Average bulk density
1,27
These results indicate an increase in ρb over the period of involvement in CA. This trend is
expected. There is little to no difference between the CA practices, although in all three cases the
planting of SCC has reduced the ρb fractionally.
29
Soil Health
This season soil health analysis was undertaken for 10 participants across five villages in Bergville;
Eqeleni (2) Stulwane (2); 6th year of implementation; when was sample taken??
Ezibomvini (2); 5th year of CA implementation; when
Mhlwazini (2); 3rd year of CA implementation; when
Ndunwana (2); 3rd year of CA implementation; when
The intention is to compare the soil health characteristics for a number of cropping options within the CA trials, with conventionally tilled mono-
cropped control plots, over time.
The Haney soil health tests (as analysed by Soil Health Solutions in the Western Cape and Ward Laboratories in the USA) provides insight into
microbial respiration and populations in the soil, organic and inorganic fractions of the main nutrients N, P and K, and assessment of organic carbon
percentage organic matter (%OM). An overall soil health score (SH) is also provided for each sample.
Haney Soil health tests parameters
4
These analyses are benchmarked against natural veld for each participant, due to high local variation in soil health properties, measured at different
times. The veld scores provide for high benchmarks to compare the cropping practices against.
Soil Respiration 1-day CO2-C: This result is one of the most important numbers in this soil test procedure. This number in ppm is the amount of
CO2-C released in 24 hours from soil microbes after soil has been dried and rewetted (as occurs naturally in the field). This is a measure of the
microbial biomass in the soil and is related to soil fertility and the potential for microbial activity. In most cases, the higher the number, the more
fertile the soil.
Microbes exist in soil in great abundance. They are highly adaptable to their environment and their composition, adaptability, and structure are a
result of the environment they inhabit. They have adapted to the temperature, moisture levels, soil structure, crop and management inputs, as well
4
Haney/Soil Health Test Information Rev. 1.0 (2019). Lance Gunderson, Ward Laboratories Inc.
30
as soil nutrient content. Since soil microbes are highly adaptive and are driven by their need to reproduce and by their need for acquiring C, N, and P
in a ratio of 100: 10: 1 (C:N:P), it is safe to assume that soil microbes are a dependable indicator of soil health. Carbon is the driver of the soil
nutrient-microbial recycling system.
Water extractable organic C (WEOC):Consists of sugars from root exudates, plus organic matter degradation. This number (in ppm) is the
amount of organic C extracted from the soil with water. This C pool is roughly 80 times smaller than the total soil organic C pool (% Organic Matter)
and reflects the energy source feeding soil microbes. A soil with 3% soil organic matter when measured with the same method (combustion) at a 0-3
inch sampling depth produces a 20,000 ppm C concentration. When the water extract from the same soil is analysed, the number typically ranges
from 100-300 ppm C. The water extractable organic C reflects the quality of the C in the soil and is highly related to the microbial activity. On the
other hand, % SOM is about the quantity of organic C. In other words, soil organic matter is the house that microbes live in, but what is being
measured is the food they eat (WEOC and WEON).
If this value is low, it will reflect in the C02 evolution, which will also be low. So less organic carbon means less respiration from microorganisms, but
again this relationship is unlikely to be linear. The Microbially Active Carbon (MAC = WEOC / ppm CO2) content is an expression of this relationship.
If the percentage MAC is low, it means that nutrient cycling will also be low. One needs a %MAC of at least 20% for efficient nutrient cycling.
Water extractable organic N (WEON):Consists of Atmospheric N2 sequestration from free living N fixers, plus organic matter degradation. This
number is the amount of the total water extractable N minus the inorganic N (NH4-N + NO3-N). This N pool is highly related to the water extractable
organic C pool and will be easily broken down by soil microbes and released to the soil in inorganic N forms that are readily plant available.
Organic C: Organic N: This number is the ratio of organic C from the water extract to the amount of organic N in the water extract. This C:N ratio is a
critical component of the nutrient cycle. Soil organic C and soil organic N are highly related to each other as well as the water extractable organic C
and organic N pools. Therefore, we use the organic C:N ratio of the water extract since this is the ratio the soil microbes have readily available to
them and is a more sensitive indicator than the soil C:N ratio. A soil C:N ratio above 20:1 generally indicates that no net N and P mineralization will
occur. As the ratio decreases, more N and P are released to the soil solution which can be taken up by growing plants. This same mechanism is
applied to the water extract. The lower this ratio is, the more organisms are active and the more available the food is to the plants. Good C:N ratios
for plant growth are <15:1. The most ideal values for this ratio are between 8:1 and 15:1.
Soil Health Calculation: This number is calculated as 1-day CO2-C/10 plus WEOC/50 plus WEON/10 to include a weighted contribution of water
extractable organic C and organic N. It represents the overall health of the soil system. It combines 5 independent measurements of the soil’s
biological properties. The calculation looks at the balance of soil C and N and their relationship to microbial activity. This soil health calculation
number can vary from 0 to more than 50. This number should be above 7 and increase over time.
31
Some of the inter relationships between these variables are explored below
Figure 3: Comparison of the SH scores for Bergville participants (N=10) with microbial respiration and organic carbon.
The general assumption here is that if the level of organic C in a plot is high, then the microbial respiration will also be high, as will the soil health
scores and vice versa. This is not always the case, as the relationship is not necessarily a linear one.
The CO2-C respiration also gives an indication of the potential mineralisation of N for the soil as well as organic matter content. The small table below
indicates these relationships.
M+B VeldB Conv
C SPSCC Labl
ab MM+B M+C
PSCCVeld Conv
C SPM+B Veld M+C
PSCCVeld Conv
C MMM+B M+C
PSCCVeld Conv
C MB
EqeleniEzibomviniMhlwazini NdunwanneStulwane
Average of CO2 - C, ppm C129. 277. 91.3 48.4 83.1 68.5 24.7 82.3 126. 129. 137. 49.7 110. 174. 195. 143. 63.6 396. 136. 80.4 169. 265. 307. 158. 75.9
Average of Organic C ppm C179. 250. 241. 163. 276. 237. 187. 185. 176. 126. 261. 198. 224. 196. 236. 213. 167. 492.251. 142. 192. 264. 307. 225. 122.
Average of Soil health calculation (new)13.7 26.1 15.69.315.7 13.17.612.6 16.2 14.2 17.7 10.5 16.0 19.7 21.2 17.5 10.9 35.8 18.1 11.7 17.9 26.0 28.3 19.2 10.7
0.0
100.0
200.0
300.0
400.0
500.0
600.0
Axis Title
SHo scores,CO2 respiration and organic carbon; Bergville 2018-2019
32
Test results ppm CO2-C
N mineralisation potential
Biomass
>100
High-N potential soil. Likely sufficient N for most
crops
Soil very well supplied with organic matter.
Biomass>2500ppm
61-100
Moderately-high. This soil has limited need for N
supplementation
Ideal state of biological activity and adequate organic matter
31-60
Moderate. Supplemental N required
Requires new applications of stable organic matter. Biomass
<1200ppm
6-30
Moderate-low. Will not provide sufficient N for most
crops
Low in organic structure and microbial activity Biomass
<500ppm
0-5
Little biological activity; requires significant
fertilisation
Very inactive soil. Biomass<100ppm. Consider long term care
For the above figure the following trends can be seen:
All the CA samples for all five villages fall within the >100ppm and 61-100ppm C02C respiration categories; indicating adequate to high
levels of organic matter, an ideal state of biological activity and a moderate to high N- mineralisaton potential.
The two Conventional tillage samples (sweet potato) fall within
the moderate category where addition of organic matter is
required as well as supplemental N. the Conventional maize
control for Ndunwana however has extremely high respiration
and organic carbon values This value is somewhat of a
mystery- as the benchmark veld samples for Ndunwana are quite
low. The fact that it is a newly tilled plot, leading to very high
microbial activity, especially bacteria, and the release of
nutrients from the organic matter in the soil, might be the best
explanation of the result.
In conclusion the soil health status of the CA trial plots are moderately
high to high, with good organic matter content and ideal states of
biological activity, as indicated in the small figure alongside. The highest
values for %OM are for the M+CP and SCC plots which confirms the
observations that these crop combinations are the best at improving soil
health in the short term.
BConv C
SP LablabMM+B M+CPSCCVeld
Total 4.8 2.8 3.2 3.8 3.9 4.9 4.8 6.2
0.0
1.0
2.0
3.0
4.0
5.0
6.0
7.0
% OM
% OM for different crop combinations, Bergville
2018-2019
33
Figure 4: % OM for different CA crop combinations in Bergville; 2018-2019
Below is a comparison of the soil health status for Ezibomvini across two seasons.
Figure 5: Comparison of Soil health indicators for Ezibomvini across two cropping seasons; 2017/18 and 2018/19
Average
of % OM
Average
of CO2 -
C, ppm C
Average
of
Organic
C ppm C
Average
of
Organic
N ppm N
Average
of C:N
ratio
Average
of Soil
health
calculati
on (new)
Cont M3.873.1 233.5 19.112.613.9
M+B 4.769.9 243.5 22.211.213.2
SCC 4.073.7 263.3 20.313.114.0
Veld 3.984.8 285.3 17.816.315.2
0.0
50.0
100.0
150.0
200.0
250.0
300.0
Soil health Ezibomvini 4th yr (N=3)
Average
of % OM
Average
of CO2 -
C, ppm C
Average
of
Organic
C ppm C
Average
of
Organic
N ppm N
Average
of C:N
ratio
Average
of Soil
health
calculati
on (new)
Conv C SP2.949.7198.015.8 12.5 10.5
Lablab 3.268.5237.014.7 16.1 13.1
M3.624.7 187.0 13.813.67.6
M+B 3.682.3185.714.4 12.8 12.6
M+CP 4.5 126.2176.515.1 11.7 16.2
SCC 5.3129.6 126.08.814.314.2
Veld 5.8 137.0261.715.4 17.0 17.7
0.0
50.0
100.0
150.0
200.0
250.0
300.0
Axis Title
Soil health Ezibomvini 5th yr (N=3)
34
Legend: CONV C SP - conventional control sweet potatoes, LabLab - Dolichos lab lab beans, M - Maize, M+B -maize and bean intercrop, M+CP - Maize and cowpea intercrop, SCC -summer
cover crop mix (millet, Sunhemp and sunflower)
When comparing the two graphs (4th and 5th year) above, it can be seen that the soil health scores (SH) are comparable for the CA cropping options
across the two seasons compared:
SCC (5th); SH=14,2 and SCC (4th); SH =14,0
M+B (5th); SH=12,6 and M+B (4th); SH=13,2
The SH score for the veld samples however differ quite a lot, mainly due to a difference in measured Organic C and Organic N. IN addition, these
samples were not taken in exactly the same place every year although they were taken in the veld directly adjacent to the homesteads. What this
means, is that the soil health parameters vary in the veld as well, depending on where the sample was taken, also over a very small area. It is thought
that these differences can be smoothed out by taking the veld samples in different places around the homestead and combining them into one
sample. This will be attempted in future seasons.
In general, the Organic C and Organic N values for the 4th year are markedly higher than those measured for the 2018-2019 season. But the microbial
respiration values for comparable CA samples (M+B and SCC) are markedly higher for the 5th year. While the flux and flow of organic nutrient
availability and microbial growth are quite complex, with many interrelated parameters, the trends in decrease in organic C and N are considered to
be related primarily to a slow, but definite drying of the soil profile over the last two years. The trend towards increased microbial activity in the
multi-cropped (M+B, M+BP and SCC) and legume (Lab-Lab) plots in the 5th year clearly indicate the value of these practices for sustained soil health
under conditions of climate variability (late onset of rain, variable rainfall and increased temperatures)
For 2018-2019 (5th year) the soil health results indicate the following trends:
The average % OM is higher for all the CA cropping options when compared to the conventional control. Plot 1 (SCC CA treatment, 2018/19)
has a value close to that of the natural veld sample, indicating the greatest build- up of organic carbon for this cropping system within a
season. This trend was also noticed for the 2017-2018 cropping season (4th year), where the SCCs were planted in Plot 9
The microbial respiration is highest for the SCC CA plot, followed by the maize and legume (cowpea, bean) intercropped plots and Lab-Lab
beans and is lowest for the mono-cropped maize. A similar trend was noticed for the 2017-2018 cropping season (4th year).
The average organic N is the highest for the three CA plots containing legumes (Lab-Lab, M+B and M+CP)(plots 10, 4 and 2 respectively).
And lowest for the SCC plot. A similar trend was noticed for the 2017-2018 cropping season (4th year).
A low C:N ratio is considered beneficial for nutrient availability for crop growth. The lowest values are found for the CA intercropped plots
(M+B and M+CP), followed by the CA maize plot. Again the trend is similar to the 2017-2018 results
35
The Conventional control plot showed the highest average organic N value (15,8ppm).
As mentioned above in the discussions around soil water content and water holding capacity, finding appropriate controls to compare the CA results
against, has been a challenge. This season a conventional control plot was chosen where increased tillage and mono-cropping is practiced. The plot
was planted to sweet potatoes. We however, did not take into account the historical land use of this plot, so while the lower % OM and microbial
respiration was expected, the higher levels of organic N were not. We have not compared the CA and conventional plots directly for this reason.
In addition, the CA maize plot for 2018-2019 (5th year), shows a very low microbial respiration rate, despite having reasonably high organic C and
Organic N values. The understanding here is that there are localised differences in soil qualitybetween the 10x10m CA plots in Phumelele
Hlongwane’s field that have reduced these values considerably. These differences are not directly related to the multi-cropping and crop-rotation
practices for the CA trial, but are more likely due to a lower microbial count, or localised soil pathogens. This was reported on in the 2016-17 report,
where a supplementary soil pathogen study conducted by the ARC showed high levels of root and crown rot fungal species in her CA plots; notably
Fusarium and Phoma species.
5
. The data indicated that the severity of root rots is higher in the CA plots than the conventionally tilled plots.
The local variations in soil health quality for different plots within the same field are due to soil management practices bythe farmer prior to starting
their CA experimentation combined with the combination of intercropping and crop rotation practices used during the CA experimentation process.
Repeat soil health samples are taken from the same plots within each participant’s field. A sampling set of15-20 cores is sued for each plot ; meaning
that these 20 sub-sub samples per plot are combined to provide for one reading for the plot. As these participants use both intercropping and crop
rotation, the crops in these specific plots are not the same every year. The assumptions used here are the following:
1. That a specific crop combination in a plot has an effect on the soil health; e.g. maize vs an intercrop or cover crops
2. That the history of the plot, in other words the rotations used also have an effect on the soil health and thus
3. That overtime the soil health scores across the plots will similar as they slowly increase.
To date, there is however still a high level of variability between the plots. This is explored in a little more detail below.
The table below indicates Phumelele’s rotations in the last four years.
5
Agricultural Research Council. Plant Protection Research Institute. P/Bag X134, Queenswood, Pretoria 0121. Preliminary Consultation Report-Analyses Of
Soil borne Diseases Of Maize, Soybean And Sunflower Soil Health Project. Prepared by: Dr Sandra Lamprecht and Thabo Phasoana. Tel: (021) 887 4690
Fax: (021) 887 5096. Email: lamprechts@arc.agric.za
36
If one now compares the soil health results for the specific plots within Phumelele’s trial, across a number of seasons, it is expected that the soil
health scores between the plots should even out and become more similar over time. These scores are also expected to increase over time. This is
shown in the figure below
Plot
no
2015/16
2016/17
2017/18
2018/19
Run off plots
1
M+B
M
M +WCC
SCC
Shaded cells indicate runoff plots
2
SCC
M
M+B
M+CP
Rotations have been done attempting to ensure a
different crop/crop mix on each plot in each consecutive
year.
A further refinement of the schedule to be a 3- year
rotation of; single crop intercrop- cover crop, will be
adhered to into the future
3
M+SCC+WCC
M+B
M
MCP
4
M+B
LL
M
M+B
5
LL
M
LL
M
6
M+LL
SCC
M+CP
M+B
7
M+CP
M
M+CP
M+B
8
M+B
M+CP
B
M+B
9
M+CP
M+B
SCC
M
10
M+B
M+B
M
LL
11?
CA Control:
M
CA Control:
M
CA Control M
12?
Control: M
(CA)
CA Control:
M+B (CA)
Conventional
control: SP
37
Figure 6: Soil health scores for a number of plots in Phumelele Hlongwane’s CA trial between 2016-2018
From the figure above the following can be seen:
The SH scores have not necessarily increased over the three seasons measured; it has increased for one of the plots (pot 10), decreased or
another (Plot 5), stayed the same for another plot (Plot 2) and has been variable for another (Plot 4), with similar differences not in the
microbial respiration.
It the SH scores are average for the plots then the veld sample has the highest SH score (17,73), followed by plot 2 (13,8, with all other plots,
including the control plots being in the range of 11,6-11,9. This does then indicate a tendency for the SH scores to even out between the plots
over time.
The fact that the CA control and Ca trial plot average soil health scores are the same; appears to indicate that the intercropping and rotations
used have a smaller effect on soil health than the practice of CA (minimum tillage)
This means that the assumption that the soil health scores will even out over time is correct, but that there are local and seasonal variations that can
mask this trend. Thus far the overall increase in soil health scores expected from the intercropping and crop rotation is not evident.
VeldVeldVeldPlot 2Plot 2Plot 4Plot 4Plot 4Plot 5Plot 5Plot 5Plot 10Plot 10
Cont M
(ConvSP
)
Cont M
(CA)
Cont M
(CA)
2018 2017 2016 2018 2016 2018 2017 2016 2018 2017 2016 2018 2017 2018 2017 2016
CO2 - C, ppm C141.8 81.6113 82.4 78.4 48.3 77.4 54.5 24.7 45.5 90.2 68.5 30.8 49.7 59.6 62.7
SH 20.116.52 16.5713.813.810.613.81 10.877.612.73 14.4513.110.8410.513.36 11.54
0
20
40
60
80
100
120
140
160
SH scoress for Phumelele Hlongwane accroding to plots within her trial: 2016-2018
38
Using the soil health test results, it is also possible to explore the composition of the microbial population in the soil, looking at the different types of
microorganisms and their prevalence using data from the PLFA test.
Generally, it is known that conventional tillage systems favour decomposer/saprophytic fungi, with small hyphal networks. These are important in
soil fertility but play a very small role in carbon storage. Conservation Agriculture systems favour Mycorrhizal fungi which have large hyphal
networks and play a major role in carbon storage. Mycorrhizal fungi get their energy in a liquid form, as soluble carbon directly from actively
growing plant roots. They access and transport water - plus nutrients such as phosphorus, nitrogen and zinc - in exchange for liquid carbon from
plant roots. Soluble carbon is also channelled into soil aggregates via the hyphae of mycorrhizal fungi and can undergo humification, a process in
which simple sugars are made up into highly complex carbon polymers. Aggregate stability is thus an important emerging quality of the soil under
CA. It is measured as % volumetric stability, as shown in the small table below.
From the soil health, microbial respiration and organic carbon data for Ezibomvini and Ndunwana, the expectation is that aggregate stability will be
good to excellent. This is indeed the case for Ndunwana (as shown in Figure 5), where the values range from 45-46,5%. For Ezibomvini however,
there is a range of values from low, to average and good. This would mean, among other things, that the soil health status, including Mycorrhizal
fungi populations in the Ezibomvini soils are not building up as expected and shows high variation between plots (within one field), as discussed in
the section above.
Volumetric Aggregate stability %
0 - 15 %
15 - 30 %
30 - 45 %
45 - 60%
> 60%
Very low
Low
Average
Good
Excellent
39
Figure 7: A comparison of % aggregate stability for soil health samples from Ezibomvini and Ndunwana
The PLFA analysis conducted and presented below, sheds some light on this.
PLFA analysis
PLFA (Phospholipid fatty acid) analysis of the microbial populations in the samples provides a breakdown (snapshot) of the type of organisms and
their ratio’s present, e.g. bacteria, fungi and protozoa, as well as their relative abundance. This is based on the different and distinguishable
biochemical structures and processes for these organisms. Although this analysis can get very complex, two simplified snapshots of the process are
provided in the figures below.
Conv
C SP
Labla
bMM+BM+CP SCCVeldM+CP SCCVeld
Ezibomvini Ndunwanne
Average of Soil aggregates25.0 32.0 45.0 25.3 31.5 27.0 42.0 46.5 45.0 40.0
Average of Soil health calculation
(new) 10.5 13.17.612.6 16.2 14.2 17.7 21.2 17.5 10.9
Average of CO2 - C, ppm C49.768.524.782.3126.2 129.6 137.0 195.7 143.763.6
0.0
50.0
100.0
150.0
200.0
250.0
Axis Title
Soil Health scores compared to soil aggregates and CO2-C
for Ezibomvini and Ndunwana 2018-2019
40
Figure 8: PLFA results for microbial populations from Ezibomvini and Ndunwana soil health samples; Bergville 2018-2019
From the above figure on PLFA results the following trends can be seen:
Mycorrhizal fungi populations for the CA maize (Mtrial) in Ezibomvini are extremely low, when compared to the veld sample and the
samples from Ndunwana; although the Mycorrhizal populations are quite small when compared to the overall microbial populations present
in these sites.
For the Ezibomvini samples the total microbial biomass for the Mtrial sample is lower than the Conventional control sample. This low
microbial mass is not reflected in the %OM (3,65) or the organic carbon (187ppm) and organic nitrogen (13,8ppm) content of the plot; these
values being quite high. This means that the microbial biomass in this particular plot is being dampened for another reason, the most likely
being disease, shown in the 2nd graph in Figure 6 above. From this and other analyses done, it would appear that this situation is specific to
this plot (and perhaps 2 others) in Phumelele Hlongwane’s CA trail.
Mycorrhizal fungi populations in the CA trial plots (Maize and SCC) are considerably higher than the veld benchmark for Ndunwana,
indicating the expected build-up of these fungi in the CA cropping system
MtrialVeldConv C SPMtrialVeldSCC
Ezibomvini Ndunwana
Average of Arbuscular Mycorrhizal9.4170.8 140.9 217.468.179.4
Average of Saprophytes104.6 982.4 305.3 581.5 253.7 264.1
Average of Actinomycetes biomass208.4 376.7 253.2 352.8 223.5 259.4
Average of Rhizobia0.0 126.0 0.021.30.00.0
Average of Protozoa biomass0.029.7 17.9 44.7 13.08.8
Average of Bacteria biomass1504.0 2257.3 2015.7 2679.2 1433.2 1917.0
Average of Fungi114.01153.2446.2 798.9 321.8 343.4
0.0
500.0
1000.0
1500.0
2000.0
2500.0
3000.0
ng/g
PLFA results ; avreage of different microbial popluations for Ezibomvini and Ndunwana 2018-
2019
41
If is also possible to analyse the ratios of the different organisms to each other
Fungi:Bacteria; Bacteria tend to dominate in systems with fewer organic inputs or residues possibly leading to a
lower C:N ratio. In addition, bacteria can be more prominent in the early spring or late fall as soil temperatures are
usually cooler and vegetation is less active or absent. Dry conditions, or increased land disturbance through
prolonged and extensive tillage, grazing, or compaction may also favour bacteria. While bacteria are important and
needed in the soil ecosystem, fungi are desired and more often considered indicators of good soil health. Increased
use of cover crops and/or other organic inputs and less soildisturbance should help the soil support more fungi.
Gram+ve:Gram-ve;Gram+ve bacteria typically dominate early in the growing seasons and/or following a fallow
period. They also survive better under certain environmental conditions or stressors such as drought or extreme
temperatures due to their ability to form spores. Therefore, it is common to see higher values when a community is
coming out of dormancy or is stressed. These values will typically become more balanced as the soil conditions
become more favourable throughout the growing season. A Gram-ve dominated soil may be due to anaerobic
conditions or other stressors such as pesticide application or heavy metal contamination
Predator:Prey; This ratio is also expressed as protozoa to bacteria. Protozoa feed on bacteria, which helps release
nutrients, especially nitrogen. A higher ratio indicates an active community where base levels of nutrients are
sufficient to support higher trophic levels of predators. However, this ratio will always be relatively low as prey
generally greatly outnumber prey.
The figure below indicates these ratios for the soil health samples taken in Ezibomvini and Ndunwana
42
Figure 9: PLFA results; ratios of different types of organisms for Bergville 2018-2019
It can be seen that:
The fungi:bacteria ratios for the CA Mtrial plots are above average to good. The low ratio for the Convention control plot (Conv C SP) is
expected, given the lower organic matter content and tillage of this plot.
The Gram+ve;Gram-ve ratios for all the samples veld control and trial plots fall between 1-2 and indicated a balanced bacterial community.
The predator:prey ratios show some variation: From Phumelele Hlonwgane (Ezibomvini) the ratios for the M trial plot are average and
those for her Conv C are very poor. This is also indicated in Figure 8 above showing very low populations of both rhizobia and protozoa in
Phumelele’s soilThe occurrence of natural strains of Rhizobia in soils are affected by pH, tillage, high temperatures and chemical residues.
As Phumelele has given attention to liming, reduced use of chemicals and has used CA now for 6 seasons running, it is unclear why these
populations are so depleted. It is suggested that introduction of rhizobia strains for root nodulation and nitrogen fixation by legumes will
have a highly beneficial effect.
For Lethiwe Mofukeng (Ndunwana) both her Mtrial and SCC plots show a very good ratio.
Conv C SPMtrialVeldMtrialSCCVeld
Ezibomvini Ndunwana
Average of Fungi:Bacteria0.08 0.22 0.510.30 0.18 0.22
Average of Gram(+):Gram(-)1.77 1.00 1.49 1.24 1.79 1.58
Average of Predator:Prey00.0089 0.0132 0.0167 0.0046 0.0111
0.00
0.20
0.40
0.60
0.80
1.00
1.20
1.40
1.60
1.80
2.00
ng/g
PLFA results; ratios of different organism types; Bergville 2018-2019
43
Nitrogen
In the dryland cropping system around Bergville, as in most other dryland cropping areas in South Africa, supplementation with inorganic Nitrogen
is considered an important strategy for optimal crop growth. In our CA study different crop combinations and cropping options are being explored
to assess the potential of providing this nitrogen through improvement of natural nutrient flow cycles. Inorganic N, besides being expensive, also has
been shown to dampen the natural microbial activity in the soil and can also be partially ineffective under extreme conditions of drought and heat.
An analysis of immediate release N has been done, as well as an estimation of the rand value of inorganic nitrogen saved /ha for different cropping
options under CA. The immediate release N- is the water extractable organic Nitrogen, which is immediately available to the next crop.
Figure 10:Comparison of immediate release N and Rand value of
inorganic Nitrogen substituted for organic N for 5 villages in Bergville;
2018-2019
From this figure the expected progression of increase in
available N from a CA maize monocrop a summer cover
crop mix to a maize and bean intercrop a maize and
cowpea intercrop is clearly visible. The CA beans only plot
has a somewhat unexpectedly low result. On average the
rand value of inorganic N saved in this process is
R318/ha. If a recommendation of 60Kg/ha of N is used,
this equates to a saving of around 47% on inorganic
fertilizer more specifically for the plots that integrate
legumes (M+B, M+CP and Lab-Lab beans). The average
rand value for inorganic N saved in the previous season
(2017), was R393. It is assumed that this value is higher
because of the higher soil water content (better soil water
distribution in the soil profile throughout the season).
This indicates the effect of heat and dry soil profiles on the ability of the soils to process and maintain nutrients.
BConv C
SP LablabMM+B M+CPSCCVeld
Average of N Immediate release25.0 30.5 33.0 26.5 30.7 32.2 28.7 34.0
Average of R value of Org N278.50 341.00 369.00 299.50 346.29 364.83 320.33 379.56
0.0
50.0
100.0
150.0
200.0
250.0
300.0
350.0
400.0
Immediate release N and Rand values of N for different CA cropping
options in Bergville; 2018-2019
44
Comparison of SH test results 2015-2018
One can compare the soil health data for the different participants over time to track improvement in soil health scores. The assumption is that soil
health will improve over time with CA implementation. The figure below summarises the data for five participants between 2015/16 to 2018/19
Figure 11: Soil health data for 5 participants from Bergville;2015-2018
From the above figure the following trends are visible:
Soil health scores have increased (although not linearly) between 2015-2018 and the average SH score for 2017/18 is 18,74.
Despite the fluctuations in CO2_C (microbial respiration) organic carbon and organic nitrogen in the four years of measurement, the overall
values have increased substantially since 2015.
CO2 - C(ppm)Organic C (ppm)Organic N (ppm)C:N ratioSoil health calculation
2015 132.7 118.5 11.6512.113.6
2016 72.95198.55 14.02514.558.525
2017 86.2 280.5 19.414.015.2
2018 149.68 227.0214.6216.5818.74
0
50
100
150
200
250
300
SH scores for bergville 2015-2018
45
Interestingly the C:N ratio has been systematically increasing rather than the expected reduction. It indicates a higher proportional
increase in organic carbonin the soil, as compared to organic nitrogen through the CA practices employed in the programme. It also shows
that improvement of soil Nitrogen is still an issue, despite the legume based intercrops and cover crops that have been used.
The extreme climatic conditions in the area, including heat and dry soil profiles, reduces the soil health impact of the CA practices and also increases
variability in the results for different seasons
46
46
Implementation snapshots across different villages
Information provided in the interim report is not repeated here. Snapshots are provided for a
few of the different villages.
Ngoba
Ngoba is a village now in its fourth year of programme participation with eleven members in the
group. The village practicescrop rotation, intercropping and cover crop experimentation. Mam
Vimbephi Dladla is one of the participants of the group. Her trial was planted 28 November 2018
andshe sharedthat while her trial suffered during the drier period, the CA trial has thrived under
the unexpected late rains in March-April 2019. She feels that one of the main reasons for this is
the CA planting, that has helped crops to withstand these harsh conditions.
Thamela
Constance Hlongwane is the local facilitator for theThamela learning group,which is now in their
third year of programme participation. Her trial has performed poorly this season and she
attributes this to both dry conditions and late planting. Her crops are characterized by stunted
growth, yellowing and poor germination. She wasunable to replant in plots where germination
was poor due to lack of planting material.
Above Left & Centre-Pictures of Mam Constance fields showing signs of yellowing and stunted
growth. Right- This plot has a contrast of yellowing and green leaves.
Ndunwana
The Seasonal conditions also caused a lot of late season weed growth, which some participants
were unable to manage well. The pictures for Lethiwe Zimba below are indicative.
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47
Above left and right; Weed infestation in Letiwe Zimba’s trial plots for summer cover crops and
maize.
Late beans
Farmers in the villages of Ndunwana, Thamela, Stulwane and Ezibomvini planted experiments of late
beans in early March. They planter200 m2 plots,of which100 m2was planted to dry beans PAN 148
withfertilizer(LAN)and 100 m2was planted incorporatingbothfertilizer and lime. Fertilizer was
applied at a rate 40 kg/ha and lime at 1.7 t/ha.
Table 18: Showing participants for late bean experimentation
Village
Participant name
Ndunwana
Lethiwe Zimba
Thamela
Constance Hlongwane
Ezibomvini
Nombono Dladla
Zodwa Zikode
Phumelele Hlongwane
Landiwe Dlamini
Stulwane
Phasazile Sithebe
Hluphizwe Zondo
Dombi Dlamini
Constance HlongwaneThamela
Constance Hlongwane planted her late bean trial on the 7th of March
2019 and sprayed with Roundup the following day, due to high weed
pressure. Monitoring showed even germination of the beans and
subsequent better growth for the trial plot that included lime.
Right: Even germination for Constance’s late bean trial
48
48
Lethiwe Zimba -Ndunwana
A similar result was found for other participants
including Lethiwe Zimba from Ndunwana,
although her germination was somewhat patchy.
This is considered an effect of Roundup which can
reduce germination of legumes, especially when
sprayed after planting.
Right: Somewhat patchy germination of
Lethiwe’s late bean trial.
Cover crops
For the majority of participants who planted summer cover crops (around 56 participants),
growth was compromised due to the weather conditions and late season infestation of weeds.
Very few participants (around 8
in total) harvested seed from
these and then only for the
Sunhemp, fodder sorghum and
millet (Babala). Sunflowers did
not survive to maturity.
Right: Sunhemp and fodder
sorghum cover crops seedinng in
Ntombakhe Zikodes field
(Eqeleni)
Far right: Millet seeding in
Phumelele Hlongwane’s field
(Ezibomvini)
Legumes such as lab-lab (dolichos) and cowpea also fared reasonably well under these harsh
conditions.
Winter cover crops were only
attempted by a handful of
participants this year. Those
planted by Ntombakhe in
Eqeleni did surprisingly well.
Right: Phumelele’s Lab-Lab plot
growing well and
Far right: Winter cover crops for
Ntombakhe
49
49
Given the extremely erratic performance of the cover crops this season, obtaining of yield data
has not been attempted.
Fodder production and supplementation
As mentioned in the interim report, most of
the fodder species planted (including
Lucerne, white and red clover and turnips)
did not germinate. Only two participants
managed a reasonable harvest of Teff, which
was one of the few crops planted that grew.
Right: MT visitors standing on Ntombakhe’s
Teff plot, for which the grass was cut and put
into bags for provision of fodder to livestock
In addition to attempting to grow different
fodder crops, the learning group members
have been provided with input on fodder
supplementation and making of bales to
improve their winter fodder supply for their
livestock
During the fodder and supplementation
learning workshop (April 2019) a number of
topics were covered including:
-Why are livestock thin in winter and
why does it matter
-What to feed and how much
-Supplementation
-How can we tell if it’s making a
difference (condition scoring sheet)
-Making hay
-Experimentation
Right; Participants in the fodder and supplementation workshop
learn about using the condition scoring sheet to monitor their
livestock and supplementation experiments.
The major issue in winter, or more generally is protein.
Carbohydrates can be found in grass and maize. The type of
grass makes a difference; Themida (Rooigrass) is good, other
grasses such as Ngongoni (Aristida), Mtshiki and Uqunga are not
very palatable.Urea supplementationcan be done using a
powder (Premix 450) or liquid (LS33) and protein licks.
Cutting of grass and making of hay bales was discussed and
small mechanical balers were provided to the group for their
experimentation process.
50
50
Right: the small balers to be used for making bales.
For the experimentation process participants undertook to do the following:
-Collect monies for the supplements
-Have these supplements, as well as rolls of twine for the bales available through the
farmer centres
-Set up and participate in condition scoring days for the livestock; the first one in mid-
End June and to
-Ensure that they have a viable experiment; cattle in the experiment and cattle not in the
experiment
In Ezibomvini and Stulwane farmers have been preparing
for the fodder supplementation experiments undertaken in
early June. They have cut grass for baling and will now start
to make bales, as the 2nd baler has been delivered; meaning
there is one baler for each of the respective areas. The idea
was the farmer centresin these two villages would procure
and supply the premix and the LS33. This has worked well
for the protein blocks as well. For the LS33, there was none
available from their closest town for a period and thus they
have only now bought this liquid supplement.
Right: Dried grass ready for baling at Phumelele
Hlogwane’s homestead.
Farmers have approached the experimentation process a
little haphazardly feeding all their cows every now and
again, rather than having a more controlled
experimentation process. The idea was thus re-introduced.
There is also the issue that the few bales that they will be
able to make (usually not more than 10 per participant),
are not likely to last long, and thus their attempts at
introducing the supplements directly. This will of course be
rather difficult with the liquid version (LS33), but has in
fact been working quite well with the pre-mix 450.
Right: Phumlele measuring out the Premix 450 to feed to her
two cows directly.
The table below outlines the fodder and supplementation
experiments now being undertaken .
Table 19: fodder experimentation participants from Stulwane, Ezibomvini and Eqeleni.
Experiment
Names
Comments
Bales with LS33
Mtholeni Dlamini
Phumlani Dladla
Mkhathini Dladla
Phumelele Hlongwane
Ntombenhle Hlongwane
They have now undertaken to feed 2-3
pregnant or lactating cows with the bales
mixed with LS 33 and to have the rest of their
hers as their control
51
51
Ntombakhe Zikode
Bales with Premix 450
Mtholeni Dlamini
Dlezakhe Hlongwane
Mkhathini Dladla
Khulekani Dladla
Phumelele Hlongwane
Ntombakhe Zikode
They have now undertaken to feed 2-3
pregnant or lactating cows with the bales
mixed with Premix 450 and to have the rest
of their hers as their control
Teff Bales
Ntombakhe Zikode
Mtholeni Dlamini
Baling of the Teff they have grown
Veld with protein blocks
Lungile Dladla
Matholozane Gumbi
Zodwa Zikode
Phasazile Sitheb
Here it has been very difficult to allow for a
control as all cattle in the kraal are given
access to the block; it is thus a practice that is
being introduced without conscious
experimentation
Veld with Premix 450
Ntobmi Dlamini
Fikile Hltashwayo
Hlupizile Zondi
Thulile Zikode
Hlanganise Hlongwane
Phumelele Hlongwane
They have now undertaken to feed 2-3
pregnant or lactating cows with the Premix
450 and to have the rest of their hers as their
control
Yields; 2018-2019 planting season
Yields have been measured for around 50% of all participants, also focusing on villages where
yield summaries were not done in the previous season.
Separation of the maize yields per plot of the trials has been an ongoing difficulty, although a
number of participants in Stulwane managed this, due to the diligence of their local facilitator,
Nelisiwe Msele. In addition, some participants combined their trial and control plot yields- in
this case due to very low yields and these results could not be used.
An ongoing issue is the
lack of appropriate
storage options. In this
season a number of 200l
bins were bought by
participants, with
assistance by MDF.
Right: Decobbing and
weighing maize yields
separated per plot in
Stulwane and Far right:
Harvested maize piled up
in a yard for final drying
before storage. (Constance
Hlongwane- Ndunwana)
52
52
This season also saw a much higher incidence of cob rots in harvested maize, due to the wet
conditions towards the
end of the season.
Right and Far Right:
Examples of cob rot found
in harvested maize.
These are likely caused by
Fusarium and Diplodia
species and carry the risk
of mycotoxins.
Participants have been
strongly warned against
consuming this maize and
have been advised to
remove the infected cobs
from the rest of their harvest.
The table below provides a comparison between the 2018/19 season and the previous season
2017/18
Table 20: Yield summaries for Maize; 2017/18 and 2018/19 seasons, for a number of Bergville villages
Village
2017/18
Maize
(Trial) t/ha
2018/19
Maize (Trial)
t/ha
2017/18
Maize
(Control)
t/ha
2018/19
Maize
(Control)
t/ha
2017/18
Beans
(t/ha)
2018/19
Beans
(t/ha)
Stulwane
3,0
2,4
-
4,4
0,84
Ndunwana
3,8
3,7
0,39
0,56
1,46
Ezibomvini
8,1
2,6
7,5
2,2
1,62
Eqeleni
4,4
3,7
1,37
0,6
Thamela
4,5
1,8
0,51
Emabunzini
4,6
5,2
-
-
0,94
Emazimbeni
7,9
4,4
-
-
1,28
Vimbukhalo
7,9
-
-
1,29
Emangweni-
Emaqeleni
5,9
3,8
-
-
1,80
Okhombe
3,5
2,3
-
-
-
0
Magangangozi
2,8
4,9
2,5
3,5
0,5
Nsuka
2,8
-
-
Thunzini
3,6
1,02
-
-
1,2
0
Ngoba
4,2
-
0,5
Mhlwazini
6,6
Emahlathini
5,9
3,6
-
-
1,09
Emafafatheni
-
1,5
-
-
0,625
Emadakeni
-
4,4
-
-
0,45
Nsuka
-
5,6
AVERAGE
5,0 t/ha
3,5t/ha
3,4 t/ha
2,7t/ha
1,22 t/ha
0,56 t/ha
NOTE: Grey blocks indicate villages where yield measurements are still being finalised. Green blocks indicate
newer villages, where yields have been measured for the first time this season
The overall average yield for this season has been compromised due to the weather conditions
and is 41% lower than 2017/18 for maize and 55% lower for beans.
53
53
Yields in intercropped and rotated plots
Maize yields for different plots within the experimentation regime were taken for a few of the participants and are summarized in the table below
Table 21: Maize yields measured per plot of the experimental fields for participants from Eqeleni, Stulwane and Ndunwana;
2018/2019
Yield in kg
2018
/ 19
2017
/18
Village
Name
and
Surname
Trial description
PLOT 1
PLOT 2
PLOT3
PLOT 4
PLOT 5
PLOT 6
PLOT 7
PLOT 8
PLOT 9
PLOT
10
t/ha
t/ha
Eqeleni
Ntombakhe
Zikode
plt1(m),plt2(sccmix),plt3(
m),plt4(b),plt5(m),plt6(m+
LL),plt7(m+b),plt8(m+b),pl
t9(m+b),plt10(lab lab)
35,6
scc mix
22,8
beans
0,0
106,8
56,2
133,5
101,0
lab lab
7,6
4,9
Stulwane
Dlezakhe
Hlongwane
plt1(m+b),plt2(m+c),plt3(s
ccmix),plt4(m+c),plt5(m),pl
t6(b),plt7(m),plt8(m+b),plt
9(lb lab),plt10(m+c)
34,2
20,5
scc mix
11,9
65,6
beans
68,8
lab lab
12,7
3,7
4,2
Khulekani
Dladla
plt1(sccmix),plt2(m+b),plt3
(m+c),plt4(m+b),plt5(b),plt
6(m),plt7(lablab),plt8(m),p
lt9(b),plt10(m)
scc mix
53,2
54,0
33,1
beans
lab lab
25,2
beans
24,0
3,6
3,5
Fikile
Hlatshwayo
plt1(m+b),plt2(sccmix),plt3
(m+b),plt4(lablab),plt5(m+
c),plt6(b),plt7(m),plt8(b),pl
t9(m0,plt10(c)
39,0
16,1
1,3
Thulani
Dlamini
plt1(sccmix),plt2(m+b),plt3
(m+c),plt4(b),plt5(m+c),plt
6(m),plt7(c),plt8(b),plt9(m
),plt10(lab lab)
scc mix
23,2
34,5
beans
34,3
56,1
cowpeas
beans
31,7
lab lab
4,2
2,3
Dombolo
Dlamini
plt1(m+c),plt2(m+b),plt3(s
ccmix),plt4(m+c),plt5(m),pl
t6(b),plt7(m),plt8(c)plt9m)
,plt10(lab lab)
20,4
60,3
scc mix
0,0
35,8
beans
23,1
cowpeas
49,3
lab lab
3,6
2,7
Nothile
Zondi
plt1(sccmix),plt2(m+b),plt3
(m+c),plt4(b),plt5(m),plt6(l
ablab),plt7(m),plt8(c),plt9(
b),plt10(m)
scc mix
0,0
0,0
beans
14,8
lab lab
14,7
cowpeas
beans
29,5
1,7
2,1
54
54
Matolozana
Gumbi
plt1(m),plt2(b),plt3(m+b),p
lt4(sccmix),plt5(m+b),plt6(
lablab),plt7(m+b),plt8(c),pl
t9(m),plt10(b)
41,7
beans
24,6
scc mix
0,0
lab lab
0,0
cowpeas
37,0
beans
2,4
4,5
Mthuleni
Dlamini
plt1(m+b),plt2(m+c),plt3(b
),plt4(m),plt5(lablab),plt6(
m),plt7(c),plt8(m),plt9(b),p
lt10(scc mix)
36,8
39,4
beans
81,2
lab lab
77,2
cowpeas
0,0
beans
Scc mix
5,3
0,7
Cuphile
Buthelezi
plt1(m+b),plt2(m),plt3(c),p
lt4(m),plt5(b),plt6(sccmix),
plt7(m),plt8(b),plt9(m+c),p
lt10(lab-lab)
13,8
0,0
cowpeas
68,4
beans
scc mix
67,6
beans
14,3
lab lab
3,6
2,9
Thembi
Mpinga
plt1(m+b),plt2(m+c),plt3(
m+b),plt4(m+c)
31,6
0,0
21,5
15,6
2,3
Ndunw
ana
Boniwe
Hlatshwayo
plt1(m+b),plt2(m+c),plt3(
m+b),plt4(m+c)
42,4
51,4
33,3
16,9
4,8
10,9
Shiyiwe
Mazibuko
plt1(m+c)plt2(m+c),plt3(m
+b),plt4(m+c)
13,9
5,5
20,4
9,4
1,6
2,5
Matozo
Zondo
plt1(m+b),plt2(m+c),plt3(
m+b),plt4(m+c)
63,8
35,8
32,6
29,0
5,4
9,6
Makhu
Mdluli
plt1(m+b),plt2(m+c),plt3(
m+b),plt4(m+c)
99,5
57,6
49,1
64,7
9,0
4,0
Vayiswa
Hlatshwayo
plt1(m+b),plt2(m+c),plt3(
m+b),plt4(m+c)
40,9
21,3
21,1
20,6
4,0
Lethiwe
Zimba
plt1(m+b),plt2(m+c),plt3(
m+c),plt4(m),plt5(sccmix),
plt6(m),plt7(lablab),plt8(m
+c),plt9(m+b,plt10(m+b)
57,3
41,3
36,3
42,3
scc mix
55,5
lab lab
39,5
45,1
0,0
4,9
AVERAGE
4,1
4,2
From the above table it can be seen that overall the average yields in the experimental plots were in fact very similar for 2017/18 and the 2018/19
seasons, being 4,2 and 4,1 t/ha respectively. The other notable point is the continued large variation in yields between the different plots within each
of the participants’ fields. The expected evening out of yields between plots, due to the crop rotation and multi-cropping options, is not really
happening. These yield differences are due in part to historical difference in land management, even at this micro-scale and partly due to different
practices between plots-such as more meticulous weeding in some plots than others and livestock invasion only in parts of fields. It also points
towards the confusion in soil health test results when trying to compare different cropping options in different plots within one field.
55
55
Bean Yields for the 2018/19 season
The 2018/2019 season has been a very difficult seasons for bean production; In a number of
villages, no beans were harvested at all. Below an indicative summary is provided for three
villages where bean harvests were recorded.
Village
% of
participants
who obtained a
harvest
Average
harvest (Kg
Yield
(t/ha)
Eqeleni
55%
12,12kg
0,6
Emafefetheni (new)
44%
5kg
0,625
Emadakaneni (new)
63%
3,6kg
0,45
Average
54%
0,56t/ha
Right: A basin of beans being weighed at Emadakaneni during yield
determinations
Farmer Centres
Case study 1: Ezibomvini Farmers Centre
Above left: Phumelele Hlogwnae making a sale of a
bunch of spinach and Above right: A view of thefarmer centre; which includes seed, fertilizer,
pesticides, knapsack prayers, seedlings and 200l storage drums.
The Ezibomvini farmers centre is owned by Phumelele Hlongwane and Zodwa Zikode. It has been
operating for 3 years, in Phumelele’s homestead. The enterprise sells agricultural inputs and non-
agricultural items including fertilizers (MAP and LAN), herbicides (Round up), knapsack
sprayers, preservation pills, maize and bean seed, vegetables, seedlings, protein premix(fodder
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supplement) and 200l storage drums. She decided to include the non-farmingitems to sell during
off-peak times. The agricultural inputs are sold to local farmers in the village and farms from
surrounding villages. She obtained the initial investment from Mahlathini Development
Foundation asaloanpayable after three months. Subsequent investments were obtained from
savings group and profits made through sales.
The incremental success of the farmers centre has continued to grow year after year since its
inception. The owners are still as surprised by the success the business has generated over the
years because they were ‘venturing into something completely new and risky’. Local farmers and
neighbours have continued to support the enterprise;fertilizers, seed and herbicides are still the
most sold products by the centre. These sales are made mainly during the planting season. But
over the years sales have also increased during off-peak times through the sale of non-farming
items mentioned above. The inputs sold in small quantities have been the main attraction to the
centre and the ability to purchase on credit on conditions specified by the owners. For example,
customers are only allowed to buy on credit if they do not have existing debt or if there’s enough
stock.
We recommended that she start selling the fertilizer, maize seeds and other seeds, herbicide as a
combo to local farmers. She added that this would be a great idea because some farmers end up
planting late due lack of access to inputs when the rains start. This could ensure that the farmers
have all the inputs they need to start planting immediately and increase her sales throughout the
planting season. She will be working on what the combos will include, price and quantities of each
time.
Case study 2: Thamela Farmers centre
Mam’Constance Hlongwane is the sole owner of the Thamela farmers centre which has been
operating from December 2018. She sells
LAN and MAP fertilizers, eggs and non-
farming items such as candles and soap to
boost sales during throughout the year. She
purchased the inputs late in December
during a dry and hot season, most farmers
did not plant and most of those who planted
had completed.
Right:The initial inputspurchased for the
farmers centre.
She received her initial R1643.06 loan from
Mahlathini Development Foundation. She
bought the following inputs:
Item
Quantity
Price per item
Amount
MAP fertilizer
1
R447.01
R447.01
UERA
2
R350
R700
LAN
1
R284.05
R284.05
Round up
2
R106
R212
Total amount
R1643.06
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During our visits we noticed that her confidence had decreased due to the low sales. We
recommended that she may want to think of other items she could include. She later added some
household items for sale. Subsequent investments were made using profits from sales and her
own money to buy additional eggs and non-farming products such as candles and soaps. She had
low confidence in the beginning that her enterprise could continue due to the low agricultural
input sales in December due to the late purchase of the stock. After taking the recommendation
to include other items that could be sold during off-peak times, she was regained her confidence
and continued. Her sales are lower than expected but she has made personal investments to
purchase more products to boost sales.
Case study 3: Ndunwana Farmers centre
The Ndunwana Farmers centre is owned by Lethiwe Zimba and Boniwe Hlatswayo. The
enterprise operates fromBoniwe Hlatshwayos
homestead. The owners areneighbours so
customers can go to Mam’ Zimba if Mam’
Hlatshwayo is away. They received an initial loan
of R2758 from Mahlathini Development
Foundation to start the business. They both share
the responsibility of paying back the loan.
Subsequent investments have been made by
Mam’Constance to purchase eggs and paraffin to
boost sales during off-peak times.
Right: The owners of the farmers centre recording
delivery of inputs
The following items were purchased using the loan:
Item
Quantity
Price per item
Amount
MAP fertilizer
2
R447.01
R894.02
UERA
3
R350
R1050
LAN
1
R284.05
R284.05
Round up
3
R176.64
R529.93
Total amount
R2758
It was recommended that they sell the eggs in smaller quantities, than the packs of 30 they were
selling; given that this market is mostly available at month-end only and eggs would spoil if kept
on the shelf for long periods.
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Case Study 5: Stulwane Farmers centre
Nelisiwe Msele is the owner of the Stulwane Farmers Centre for about 2 months since 15 May
2019. Following the
workshop on fodder
production for the winter
season, the facilitator
suggested to the farmers to
include protein
supplements for livestock to
sell to livestock farmers and
preservation pill. She
bought additional candles
and salt sold at the farmers
centre.
Right: Stulwane farmers
centre
The initial investment was used to purchase the following items:
Item
Quantity
Price per item
Amount
Voermol Premix 450
4
R230
R920
Protein Block
2
R149.50
R299
Quick phos tab (pack)
1
R302
R302
Chemical measuring cup
4
R7.50
R30
TOTAL
R1551
She has made subsequent investments due to the increasing demand for Voermol premix 450.
She initially thought people would not buy from her but we encouraged her to market her items
more by spreading the word to her neighbours at all gatherings.
Case study 6: Emabunzini Farmers centre
Mam’Valindaba Khumalo also has a farmer centre in her homestead. The enterprise began
operating from December 2018. She has knowledge of livestock vaccination due to her
membership in the Executive Committee of the local dipping committee. In winter she plans to
include livestock vaccines to her stock to sell to livestock farmers. She is the only one from the
three other farmers centre opened in 2018 that was ready to return the loan to Mahlathini
Development Foundation.
Shevisited her neighbours going from door to door marketing her products which was successful.
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Right: Mrs
Valindaba
Khumalo’s
farmer centre
and Far right:
Phumzile
sitting with her
to consolidate
her record
keeping
process.
The following inputs were purchased with the initial loam:
Item
Quantity
Price per item
Amount
MAP fertilizer
1
R447.01
R447.01
UERA
1
R350
R350
LAN
1
R284.05
R284.05
Round up
3
R106
R318
Total amount
R1399.06
Personal subsequent investments were used to purchase candles, salt and soap which were sold
to increase profit and pay back the loan as soon as possible. Mam’ Valindaba can’t write so we
devised a system with her that she could use to record. We offered her the opportunity to continue
to use the initial investment to purchase livestockvaccines and other livestock items she had
suggested.
Below is a table outlining the incomes for each farmer centre
Village
Initial
loan
Items sold
Total
Profit
Stulwane
R1821
Premix 450, protein blocks, Quick phos
tablets. Salt, britelit soap, Bulala Zonke
R6 237,50
R1 247,50
Eqeleni
R1 553
Protein block, premix 450
R1 523,75
R304,75
Thamela
R2 800
Urea, MAP, LAN, Roundup, paraffin,
soap, snuff, eggs
R3 839,20
R778,64
Ezibomvini
-
Seed PAN 6671, Pan 413, PAN 53,
Quickphos, Fert 2:3:2 (22), MAP Fert
(33), Bulala Zonke, Blue death,
seedlings, premix 450, protein blocks
R21 490,92
R4 958,40
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Village Saving and LoanAssociations
In the course of the month of April, the MDF team comprising of Mr Madondo, Tema and
Nontokozo undertook a task to visit VSLA groups in Bergville. This was part of yearly group
reviews with the aim to assess their progress and address any challenges. The groups visited by
the teamare situated in the villages of Vimbukhalo, Ezibomvini, Eqeleni, Ndunwana, Emabunzini,
Stulwane and Bethany (Gudlintaba). MDF is currently supporting 15 groups in Bergville, 2 in
Creighton and 1 in Nokweja area bringing the total number of groups to 18.
The groups are making good progress and all of them are fully operational. The oldest group is
uMntwana Savings Group based in Stulwane Village which is saving for the seventh year this year.
The majority of the groups have been operational for a period between three and five years.
Majority of the groups have a membership ranging from 20 to 30 members with 98 percent of the
members being female. The groups consist of youth members, middle aged women as well as
elderly women, most of whom are unemployed and rely on socialand pension grants as well as
remittances from family members residing outside Bergville.
Savings meetings are conducted monthly until the conclusion of the 13-month cycle wherethe
group dissolves and starts again. Members who are not present at meetings canrequest someone
to save on their behalf but must be present when borrowing to sign off their loans.
All of the groups have had their share-outs for the 2018/19 cycle. During the reviews, the groups
were asked to talk about how the money from savings has made a difference in their lives and
whether they save for agricultural inputs. The biggest items on which share-out money is utilized
include furniture; fridges, wardrobes and televisions in particular which were mentioned by 95%
of the members. Other uses include payment of school fees, groceries and household renovations
which were also mentioned in more than 80%of the members of the savings groups. A small
percentage (5-10 %) used the money to purchase agricultural inputs, i.e. fertiliser, seed and other
agriculture related products such as meat and eggs.
Reasons for the aforementioned are that in most savings groups, up to half of the group members
are not part of the CA programme,but joined the groups as they wanted to learn about savings
hencetheir priorities lean moretowards household consumption. However, even the participants
who practice CA spend the majority of their savings on household needs.
The groups visited distributed a total of R 879 963.00 amongst 258 members (see Table 22). The
majority of the groups had a share increase value ranging between 25 and 49 percent.
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Right: A shar out session
being conducted in Ngoba
(Sakokuhle group)
The savings groups have
been supported as an
important element in the
stability of the groups and
in support of livelihoods
in these rural
communities.
There is no direct evidence that the hoped-for increase in savings for inputs and agricultural
uses is materialising. Work with the VSLAs will thus no longer be consciously included as a part
of this programme.
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Table 22: Group Share-out Bergville, 2018/19
NO
Village
GROUP NAME
YR
S
NO. OF
MEMB
ERS
NEW
SHARE
VALUE
TOTAL
AMOUNT
SHARED
OUT
MAX
AMOUNT
/MEMBE
R
MIN
AMOUNT/
MEMBER
AVERAGE
AMOUNT/M
EMBER
USES
1
Vimbukhalo
Ukhamba
2
20
R130.00
R75,000
R8,000
R0.00
R1,300
Inputs, school fees, cutlery, blankets,
renovations, furniture
2
Eqeleni
Masithuthuke
6
23
R130.00
R80,000
R7,800
R1,560
R3,680
Christmas and school clothes, new TV,
tiles, renovations
3
Eqeleni
Masibambane
5
25
R136.00
R79,698
R8,000
R700
R4,000
Fertiliser, LAN, Maize seed, lounge suite,
floor tiles
4
Stulwane
uMntwana
7
36
R130.00
R140,000
R7,500
R1,200
R3,200
Inputs, furniture, other household needs
5
Stulwane
Mbalenhle
2
20
R149.00
R108,000
R9,000
R1,600
R5,000
Electricity installation, furniture, serviced
debts, business stock, groceries
6
Ngoba
Sakhokuhle
3
23
R145.00
R105,000
R8,000
R3,500
R3,500
smart phones, clothing, fertiliser, seed,
wardrobe, building material, fencing
7
Ngoba
Isibonelo
3
30
R152.00
R100,000
R9,000
R1,200
R4,000
Wedding celebration, furniture, livestock,
groceries, investments
8
Bethany
Gudlintaba
3
20
R161.00
R86,070
R9,600
R1,400
R4,500
New stock for meat business (tripe), eggs
to sell, poultry, medical bills, College fees
9
Vimbukhalo
Inyonyana
3
20
R130.00
R41,210
R3,770
R780
R1,950
Furniture, groceries, school fees
10
Ezibomvini
Ukuzama
3
21
R125.00
R23,375
R3,375
R2,000
R2,000
Inputs, household needs
11
Ndunwana
Mphelandaa
3
20
R149.00
R41,610
R3,576
R700
R2,200
Christmas and school clothes, renovations
TOTAL
258
R879,963
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Stakeholder engagement
Maize Trust Board visit
6 Members of the Maize Trust Board, journeyed from Pretoria to the cathedral Peak area in
Bergville for a smallholder conservation agriculture day hosted by the MDF team. The intention
was to provide informationand practical examples of the innovation development approach used
for adaptive and participatory research into smallholder CA systems. Both this approach to
research and the emphasis on livelihoods and adaptation were new to these important decision
makers in the maize industry. The day was designed also to showcase some of the work
smallholders have undertaken.
Below are a few illustrative photographs of the farmer visits.
Above Clockwise from top left: Visiting Ntombakhe Zikode’s field in Eqeleni where a plot of winter
cover crops is seen in the fore ground; Her maize crop maturing; the farmers’ meeting with the
board members and a view of a portion of the farmer centre for the village.
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Issues, comments and suggestions
1. This season saw a dip in the number of CA trial participants, inaddition to which those
who did plant their subsidised trials for the most part did not plant the rest of their fields.
This is a reasonably strong indication that these really poor smallholders use the
subsidised CA production process as a risk management strategy for their cropping. This
was not the intention, but the feeling is that the gains in food availability and food security,
as well as general soil health are high enough to justify this “investment”.
2. These seasons of high climate variability affect the ability of these smallholder farmers to
crop in a commercially viable way, but the CA process has assisted to build resilience in
the overall cropping system and improve the resilience of the livelihoods of these people.
3. Yields have decreased by around 40% in this season, primarily due to late seasonal rains
and coupled with very high evapotranspiration rates in the hot summer months, despite
overall rainfall being higher than last season.
4. The partnership with the KZNDARD Landcare unit is both rewarding and very frustrating.
This season late and haphazard delivery of inputs from the Department led to a lot of time
wastage and planting even later than needed. Thankfully the Department wasvery aware
of this shortcoming and has initiated deliveries of inputsfor the upcoming season already.
5. The local facilitators have played a much stronger role this season in organising
monitoring and managing their learning groups. Their role will become more crucial in
future as this responsibility will be handed to the groups themselves to free the MDF field
staff up to focus on the research aspects of the programme
6. A focus on integration of livestock has been initiated and the initial fodder production and
supplementation experimentation has been very interesting for all involved. This aspect
is to be strengthened in the upcoming season through a partnership with the soil science
division of KZNDARD at Cedara and AGT Food for supply of a range of different cover crop
and fodder seed varieties.
7. A partnership also with a research process on mycotoxins through the ARC has been set
in place for the upcoming season, as the slowly increasing prevalence of cob rots is of
concern.
8. There has been a high turnover of interns at MDF and although this is to be expected, it is
difficult to ensure quality of work and the monitoring these interns have undertaken.
Although MDF is committed to this capacity building process, the resultant compromise
in quality of data for some of the monitoring processes is seen as regrettable. The process
of instituting an initial probation period of 1-3months, is now being held to more firmly.
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Summary of annual expenses as on August 2019
Date of transaction
Type of transaction
Amount
2018/10/18
AGT FOODS : Seed
16 175,90
2018/10/18
AGT FOODS : Seed
1 932,00
2018/10/26
Monthly expenses
64 169,40
2018/12/11
Monthly expenses
52 358,17
2019/01/23
Monthly expenses
117 993,96
2019/02/28
Monthly expenses
75 295,69
2019/03/29
Monthly expenses
45 358,22
2019/04/30
Monthly expenses
55 445,11
2019/05/31
Monthly expenses
45 780,95
2019/06/28
Monthly expenses
65 330,30
2019/06/30
Monthly expenses
47 979,38
2019/07/31
Monthly expenses
48 490,22
2019/09/09
Monthly expenses
50 545,50
TOTAL AUG 2019
636309,30