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Potato surface planting success story: A case of Joan Cheserem-Elgeyo Marakwet.

This translates to approximately 10 tons per acre of potatoes. Therefore, her yields increased by 395% as compared to her usual yield. She was very impressed and hopes of doing farming ignited again thanks to CA surface planting technology.

Joan Cheserem used to plant maize and potatoes on her 3-acre piece of land. For many years of her farming, she could barely achieve a yield of more than forty 50kg bags of potato from one acre even during a better season and in bad weather she got nothing. This in most cases was not enough to fend for her family's needs. Joan Cheserem is a smallholder farmer from Kapsigoria Moiben Kuserwo ward in Marakwet west sub-county of Elgeyo Marakwet county. She was introduced to PAFID via one of our FSCs under the FTMA project. A project that is funded by WFP to help farmers from the time of land preparation up to the market.

Before PAFID intervention, Joan used to incur high production costs in her quest to produce maize. She notes that she used to churn the soil in the usual conventional way – her land used to be easily eroded due to frequent soil disturbance.

When she first heard of CA and more so potato surface planting during a farmers' training conducted by PAFID and CGA in that area, she never believed it can work since she had lost hope in farming. Nevertheless, she decided to try albeit on a smaller portion of her land. On a 0.25-acre piece of land that previously had maize, she plated potatoes under surface planting approach. She applied Bayer’s Roundup herbicide as her mode of land preparation and then planted her potatoes using surface planting technique. She then put her seeds on the surface at a spacing of 75cm by 30cm then applied planting fertilizer and did earthing up using a thin layer of topsoil. After germination, she applied Bayer’s Sencor selective herbicide to control weeds. Furthermore, she applied Bayer’s Tihan, Bayer’s Infinito and Bayer’s Milraz to control pests and blight.

Climate change being a reality, her potatoes received very little rain which made it impossible to apply top-dressing fertilizer. Despite the harsh weather conditions, her crops were resilient due to the technique of minimal soil disturbance land preparation and planting. Neighboring crops planted conventionally succumbed to harsh weather and owners incurred a hundred percent loss save for Joan, she was able to get 22, 75 kg-bags of marketable tubers and 11, 75 kg-bags seed size from her 0.25-acre piece of land. This translates to approximately 10 tons per acre of potatoes. Therefore, her yields increased by 395% as compared to her usual yield. She was very impressed and hopes of doing farming ignited again thanks to CA surface planting technology.

Figure 2: Farmworker applying fertilizer on potatoes placed on the ground surface - Supervised by FSC Kigen

She saved money that could have been used for manual weeding and second earthing up, and at the same time conserved little moisture by not disturbing the soil which made her harvest while neighbors didn’t.

She not only committed to continue using the technique and follow the GAPs as trained in the subsequent seasons on a larger scale but also promised to share the knowledge acquired with her neighbors since it's easier, saves money and guarantees good returns even if rains fail. She also noted that harvesting was easier with little or no potatoes remaining under the surface. This season she has expanded to 2 acres and since her farm is sloppy, we have introduced vetiver grass to help eliminate the problem of soil erosion. She expects more yield and thanks FtMA for the success.


  Figure 3: Harvesting is notably easier with surface planting as little amount of soil is disturbed in the process

 

Figure 4: Shows Joan’s farm after incorporating surface planting and strips of vetiver grass to control soil erosion this season.

 

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