The purpose of this project was to plant living mulch in my fruit tree orchard for several reasons, such as costs associated with weed control, the use of string-based bush cutters which may potentially mechanically damage the fruit trees, and the potential economic return directly linked to on-farm sustainability and diversification.
The living mulch that was planted in most areas has shown to be extremely effective in reducing the cost and labor of weed control. In areas where the sweet potato ground covers have been established, the weeds have been almost entirely eliminated and only minimal weeding is necessary. It has increased the survival rate of the fruit trees; I have not lost one tree. The need for bush-cutting and the use of herbicides around the fruit trees have been greatly reduced. In diversifying and creating other avenues for economic return in my farming operation, I have been able to harvest and sell produce from the living mulch, as well as generate more plant material for other parts of the fruit tree orchard.
Months 1-4: Establishment of initial living mulches. This involved ground preparation and then planting and initial weeding to establish initial living mulch.
Months 4-6: Involved re-establishing living mulches where initial species were unable to become established. Initial workshop lectures were prepared, as well as an extension fact sheet. At the end of the rainy season, irrigation was installed for some of the living mulches to support them through the dry season.
Months 7-8: Field day was announced and held.
Months 8-12: Analysis of the effectiveness of the living mulches and expansion of the living mulches to other areas of the farming operation. Extension publication on living mulch was prepared. Final report for the project prepared.
The first quarter of the project was solely devoted to the ground preparation and initial weeding. At this time, it was still part of the rainy season. I started to acquire the plant material for the ground covers. Initially, I started with acquiring some sweet potato cuttings. I did my initial planting and began propagating more cuttings to be spread out to the rest of the fruit tree orchard. The only pest problems associated with sweet potato that have been observed is the leaf-footed bug. I had lost my initial plantings of sweet potato and had begun propagating again.
During the second quarter, I began the sweet potato again and hired labor to spray Sevin when necessary. Irrigation supplies were purchased and installed because the dry season was beginning. As a result of the initial planting being lost, I was forced to plant during the dry season under irrigation.
A field visit for other farmers and the community was held and extension publications were disseminated. The sweet potato ground cover established worked extremely well as living mulch. I also tried planting long beans and squash as a ground cover, and they grew very aggressively. However, the vines started climbing the fruit trees if not managed properly. As for weed control, the long beans and squash did a good job but not as good as the sweet potato. While I tried, sweet potato, long beans, and squash, cowpea was the only species that was not readily available on the island.
Educational & Outreach Activities
Guam Extension faculty and field agents have conducted presentations on the benefits of living mulch and an extension publication was developed and disseminated both through local extension offices and through the internet as online PDF publications. These online outreach efforts will not only be available to Guam but to all the other land grants within the American Pacific. Copies of all lecture guides and extension publications were sent to all Cooperative Extension offices in the American affiliated Pacific.