Low input access
Problem: Terrace farmers are often located in remote, mountainous areas, with poor access to inputs (e.g. fertilizers, hybrid seeds, chemical pesticides, tools).
•To improve yields of maize, at a low cost, we are testing the effectiveness of teaching farmers how to produce their own maize hybrid seeds, assisted by 10-cent pollination bags.
•To reduce the need for synthetic fertilizers, we are promoting practices that enrich and/or maintain the nutrients within locally generated farmyard manure (FYM) such as showing farmers how to collect livestock urine from animal sheds into FYM pits using PVC pipes, which dramatically increases the nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium content of the manure.
•To reduce the need for synthetic nitrogen fertilizer, we are promoting legumes which naturally accumulate organic nitrogen fertilizer and protein because they associate with symbiotic Rhizobium bacteria in their roots; these bacteria grab and convert atmospheric nitrogen gas, a process termed biological nitrogen fixation (BNF).
•To reduce the need for synthetic pesticides, we are testing low cost disinfection of seeds using vinegar and alcohol, and by the use of water floatation (with salt) to separate infected seeds (which are lighter) from healthy seeds (which are heavier). Soaking seeds in water by itself has been shown to improve germination and growth.
•We are working with farmers to test seed treatments to reduce fungal diseases and pests rather than having to spray chemicals in the field.
•To optimize biological nitrogen fixation in legumes, we are working with farmers to test Rhizobium strains.