WRC VIA Chameleons

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ErnaKruger (Director); info@mahlathini.org
Promoting collaborative, pro-poor agricultural innovation
2003-2018
Conservation Agriculture 2013-2018- Maize Trust;
KZN, EC -550 farmer led CA trials
Smallholder CSA Decision support 2017-2020 WRC;
15 Village based sites across KZN, Limpopo, EC (200
participants)
(S&WC, agroecology-gardening, CA-field cropping, livestock and
natural resource management)
Community CCA 2017-2019 USAID (AWARD);
7 Villages in Lower Olifants’ Basin (150 participants)
Chameleons;
water use
efficiency
Farmer Level Experimentation
1 participant/ village
2 villages per area
3 provinces (Limpopo,
KZN, EC)
Three sets each
Experiment:
1. Trench bed inside shade cloth tunnel; mixed cropping, mulching
2. Trench bed outside shade cloth tunnel: mixed cropping, mulching
3. “Normal” bed outside shade cloth tunnel – normal planting practices
Limpopo LowerOlifant’s
Sedawa-Christina
Thobejane
Top: Chameleon in trench bed inside tunnel
Bottom: furrows and ridges outside tunnel
Measure the
amount of water in
the soil (20,40 and
60 cm deep)
Tells you when and
how much to
irrigate
Applying water until the chameleon
changes colour (goes blue) seems to be
a good idea as this saves her some
water and means that she only has to
irrigate once a week (every 7 days).
She has thus now changed her irrigation
practice of watering a little every
morning and afternoon, to a deep
watering every 5-7 days.
Phumelele Hlongwane -
irrigation
Bucket drip kits provide 4mm irrigation perbucket to be
provided on a daily basis
She used the chameleons to determine whether to irrigate
daily and or whether to use more than one bucket
Works the best in the trench beds inside the tunnel
Forthe normal bed outside the tunnel the deeper soil
(40-60cm) remains dry
Also included a manual form to assist with the farmer level
analysis
To assess amount of water provided, linked to rainfall and
chameleon sensor colours
PH: Tunnel
PH: Trench
PH: Garden
Growth inside tunnels visually much
better than outside tunnels and much
better than the ‘normal’ raised beds
typical in the area; it is possible to get
higher yields with less water… still
need to compare over time how this
works in different seasons with
different crops
Comparison;
Watering practices
Ntombakhe Zikode:
For her tunnel Chameleon readings
follow the broad trend of rainfall
patterns in the area
Indicating that she is not able to
use the sensor readings to
adapt her watering practices..
Phumelele Hlongwane
For her tunnel, she has tried hard to
use the sensor readings to adapt her
watering practices
To some extent she has over
watered somewhat generally
she has managed to keep her
soil profile well wetted
PH: Tunnel
NZ: Tunnel
Bgvl
June-Sept 2018
Simple
scientific method
(ET)
Farmers'
method
(Water
applied)
Name
of famer
water
use
(m3)
Total
weight
(kg)
WP
(kg/m
3)
water use
(m
3)
Total
weight
(kg)
3)
Phumelele Hlongwane
trench
bed inside tunnel
1
,65
21
,06
12
,76
1
,85
21
,06
,38
Phumelele
Hlongwane
;
trench
bed outside
tunnel
0
,83
5
,32
6
,45
1
,75
5
,32
,04
Ntombakhe
Zikode
trench
bed
inside tunnel
1
,65
17
,71
10
,73
2
,37
17
,71
,47
Ntombakhe
Zikode
;
trench
bed outside
tunnel
0
,50
3
,35
6
,76
0
,53
3
,35
,33
Simple
scientific
method
(ET)
Farmers'
method
(Water
applied)
Name
of famer
water
use
(m
3)
Total
weight
(kg)
WP
(kg/m
3
)
water
use
(m3
)
Total
weight
(kg)
WP
(kg/m
3)
Christina
Thobejane (Tunnel
;
trench
beds, withmulch)
0
,8
48
,9
65
1
,10
48
,9
56
,7
Christina Thobejane
(Furrows
and ridges
with
mulch)
0
,5
24
,5
46
,4
3
,91
24
,5
5
Christina
trench outside
0
,8
14
,7
18
,4
2
,93
14
,7
11
,3
Nora
Mahlako (Tunnel
;
trench
beds withoutmulch)
0
,8
19
,6
26
9
,47
19
,6
5
Table: Water productivity for gardening practices for two participants from
Limpopo (Sedawa); April -July 2018
Water productivity-gardening
Table : Water productivity for gardening practices for two participants
from Bergville; July-Aug 2018
WP for trench beds substantially higher than
“normal bed”. WP in tunnels substantially
higher than outside; around 5 x more in
Limpopo and around 3 x more in KZN
Some issues with using chameleons
Difficult soil types
Interference by organic matter
placed in the soil
Lack of easy access to unlimited
water
Lag time between irrigation and
sensor reading still working on
what that should be…
Fear of tech
Difficulty in interpretation of
results
Can’t tell in the field where the
problem lies when a sensor is not
reading
Can’t tell when the reader is
charged or not- only from the
internet interface
Sometimes the readers indicate an
upload is complete, but data
somehow is not reflected on the
site.
Conclusions
Chameleons work well as a learning tool to understand the
movement of water in the soil related to weather conditions and
different soil types
Chameleons can be used to experiment with watering schedules to
learn better practices but
Managing chameleons in the field (by field staff and farmers alike)
somewhat problematic – trouble shooting and ‘fixing” sensors that
aren’t reading is often a reasonably complex task.