‘Local’ inspiration from half a world away

An entomology researcher in North Carolina. A program coordinator in the Democratic Republic of Congo. A social change specialist in Washington, D.C. A banana expert in Hawaii. A project evaluator in Ghana.

Many of the graduate students who have participated in the Horticulture Innovation Lab’s Trellis Fund projects have gone on to interesting careers in diverse places.

photo: portrait of Mark Lundy
Mark Lundy, UC Cooperative Extension advisor, now works with farmers in Colusa, Sutter and Yuba counties in California.

One of the first students to travel with a Trellis Fund project was Mark Lundy, then a UC Davis grad student who worked in Malawi on a tomato project led by the Bvumbwe Agricultural Research Station.

Today Mark works with farmers in California as a Cooperative Extension advisor on crops such as tomatoes, alfalfa, wheat, sunflower, beans and vegetables, with the University of California’s Agriculture and Natural Resources. (He also recently co-authored a popular paper about insects as food.)

This week, Mark wrote for the Feed the Future blog about his experience Continue reading ‘Local’ inspiration from half a world away

Student opportunity: ‘Future leaders’ in international agriculture development

Association for International Agriculture & Rural Development annual conference 2015Interested in international agriculture? University students are invited to apply for a fellowship to attend the Association for International Agriculture and Rural Development’s annual conference and then participate in its Future Leaders Forum.

This year, the AIARD annual conference will be May 31 – June 2 in Washington, D.C. Continue reading Student opportunity: ‘Future leaders’ in international agriculture development

Reducing drudgery while improving soil for Cambodian vegetable farmers

A version of this article originally appeared in the Feed the Future newsletter.

Most commonly used with field crops, conservation agriculture combines three practices that help farmers invest in soil health, specifically:

  1. minimal soil disturbance (“no till”),
  2. continuous mulch cover, and
  3. rotating diverse crops.

These practices can also reduce labor and reduce water evaporation from the soil.

Manuel Reyes, professor at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, has helped farmers in many countries improve their soil and use water efficiently. In doing so, he has also partnered with three Feed the Future Innovation Labs, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Beginning in 2010, Reyes started working with farmers in Cambodia on conservation agriculture for field crops, with an international team supported by the SANREM Innovation Lab. Two year later, the team worked with 56 households over 149 hectares to use conservation agriculture principles.

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Women farmers in Cambodia are combining drip irrigation with conservation agriculture to grow vegetables with less drudgery, while improving soil health. (Photo by Manuel Reyes, NC A&T)

After testing conservation agriculture practices with vegetable crops in the United States, Reyes expanded his conservation agriculture work in Cambodia to focus on vegetable farmers. Now with additional funding from the Horticulture Innovation Lab, he added drip irrigation to conservation agriculture practices for vegetable farmers. This research sought to find whether combining these practices could reduce labor needs, increase yield, increase income and ultimately receive support from vegetable farmers.

For field trials in Cambodia, women farmers grew a variety of vegetables, including string beans, cucumber, Chinese cabbage, kale, tomatoes and eggplant. Continue reading Reducing drudgery while improving soil for Cambodian vegetable farmers

14 steps to growing vegetables with conservation agriculture and drip irrigation

Manny Reyes, NC A&T
Manuel Reyes, professor, North Carolina A&T State University

As told by Manuel Reyes, professor in Biological Engineering at North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University:

  1. Manually till and weed a small plot of land (no more than 200 square meters).
  2. Make vegetable beds.
  3. Find a source of mulch for your site. Mulch should not contain seeds and not grow vegetatively.
  4. Cut mulch and let it dry.
  5. Install drip irrigation on the site.
  6. Put dried mulch on the entire area including the furrows between the vegetable beds. Mulch should be at least 2.5 inches thick. Continue reading 14 steps to growing vegetables with conservation agriculture and drip irrigation

How drying beads work, in a new SciDev.Net video

Reporter Giovanni Ortolani visited with Horticulture Innovation Lab partners in Bangkok, Thailand, recently to learn about how farmers in humid climates can better save seed using drying beads. His video (below) and article “How seed-drying beads can empower farmers in the tropics” were published this week on SciDev.Net, a news website focused on science and technology for global development.

When stored in hot, humid conditions, vegetable seed deteriorates rapidly — lowering germination rates and farmers’ yields. Ortolani interviewed Patcharin Taridno, senior manager of seed technology with Rhino Research, about how the company’s zeolite-based “drying beads” can help farmers better dry seeds for storage by reducing relative humidity. Continue reading How drying beads work, in a new SciDev.Net video