August 26, 2015
Agroforestry – legumes in the inter rows
I have just entered a consultancy to investigate the use of legumes as an inter...
This is the first planting of stylosanthes guianensis near Tonle Bati about 30 kilometres south of Phnom Penh. This was planted in July 2015.
This next image is of the same plot on August 22nd 2015. Stylo is so well adapted to sandy acid soils. I did apply a modest amount of NPK, 15-15-15 just to give it a kick along.
The following image is why I am so enthusiastic about stylo….there is a real prospect for reducing the costs of raising pigs in this country if bagged mixes are supplemented with fresh stylo. High protein and excellent fresh feed for pigs.
Panicum maximum growing in Kandal province, Cambodia 2011. This is what is possible! As a trial 4 years ago I started a small plot south of Phnom Penh on only 1000m2 to test whether tropical forages could be grown in rice paddies with raised beds.
It quickly became apparent it was possible with careful water management and access to irrigation in the dry season. This stand is purple guinea or sometimes called Tanzania guinea, with seed available from Dr Michael Hare from the University of Ubon Ratchathani in north east Thailand.
I got my inspiration for this weeding hoe made from an old bicycle from – YouTube.
Check out my YouTube video to see me cutting come weeds in amongst the stylo and mombassa guinea.
Every time I assess land for a commercial group seeking to enter agriculture in Cambodia I insist on performing a rapid assessment of the soils on site. As I say this is a rapid assessment which is used to determine if the land has some potential for further investigations and a full due diligence before large investments are made.
Cambodia is blessed with a variety of landscapes, but apart from the soil in the image above much of the soil samples I have taken are generally poorly structured with an acid pH and low in nutrients. Many of the samples however were in landscapes that have been cultivated for centuries and have essentially been mined of their fertility.
Unfortunately much country is being indiscriminately logged and becoming available for agriculture. This has major environmental issues on many levels, including biodiversity and habitat loss, erosion, soil nutrient depletion through inappropriate agricultural practices.
Laos is a remarkably beautiful country. I was fortunate to see just a small section of it around Xieng Khouang in November 2013 for a consultancy to investigate the options for a beef cattle development on what was a former Soviet dairy farm in the 1970’s or 1980’s? Hey, note the large jars in front of the building? Those were relocated by the Soviets from the many “Plain of Jars” sites for which the area is famous.
The landscape is elevated at about 1200 metres above sea level and has glorious cool days from about November to February. There are claims it was a former lake bed which was lifted in an ancient geological event.
I was very interested in the grass species on the farm, which included what I identified as possibly paspalum plicatulum which was likely introduced by the Soviets in the 1970’s to cope with the acid, low fertility and seasonally water logged soils. However when it is left ungrazed it will become unpalatable to cattle and would require a slash to get some young growth occurring. A rotational grazing system would also make better use of the grass rather then letting it get tall and unpalatable.
Likely paspalum plicatulum
Please share your experiences with agriculture in Lao PDR.
These small cattle are very hardy and docile, just so well suited to the heat, parasites and the low quality fodder often found in grazing areas of Cambodia. This picture is from a recent trip to Kampong Speu, Cambodia to establish my tropical legume trial as an inter row planting.
More often than not, young boys are not attending school to tend to the herd. The local people grow no grass or legume close to their houses so the young boys need to take the animals out every day to forage for feed across a large area. Generally the feed is of a very low quality but worst of all the kids don’t go to school. Their circumstances need to change. Can forages close to their village help?