Organic Farming in the Tropics with Legume Groundcover

Project Overview

FS05-193
Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2005: $8,107.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2006
Region: Southern
State: Puerto Rico
Principal Investigator:

Commodities

  • Additional Plants: native plants, ornamentals
  • Animals: bees

Practices

  • Crop Production: conservation tillage
  • Education and Training: decision support system, demonstration, display, extension, farmer to farmer, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research, study circle, workshop, technical assistance
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, habitat enhancement, soil stabilization, wildlife
  • Pest Management: mulches - living, trap crops, weed ecology
  • Production Systems: holistic management, permaculture
  • Soil Management: green manures, nutrient mineralization, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities, partnerships, public participation, community services, employment opportunities, social capital, social networks, sustainability measures

    Summary:

    Our objective was to produce the leguminous groundcover mani pantanal (Arachis Panthanal) in a more efficient way. Instead of planting in the nursery, we made wood frames with sand (40%) and coffee waste (60%), instead of saw dust as we had originally planned.

    We tried the coffee waste as a suggestion from another professor because sawdust was difficult to find and coffee waste is abundant and adds fertility. It worked out very well, and we transplanted 4,000 square feet.

    We did not use a saran cover since the test plot was already somewhat shady. The mani plant established very well and transplanted easily with well-developed roots.

    When we tried transplanting the mani to full sun location it suffered from weed competition. Also manual labor was too expensive. In some areas snails at the plants, but in other areas it grew successfully. In one plot round up was used to eliminate weeds before planting the mani and that worked well.

    Perhaps the most important discovery was that the mani established best in the areas shaded with plantains.

    In conclusion we can say the following:
    Wood frames filled with sand and coffee waste worked well as nursery beds to efficiently produce mani pantanal ground cover.

    Mani performed best where it was shaded by plantain plants.

    Eliminating weeds with Round Up helped the mani get established. Once the mani was established no more herbicide treatments were needed.

    After transplanting the mani grew best in 30-40% shade in the fields.

    In terms of general efficiency, including labor, we estimate it is three times better to produce mani ground cover in field beds rather than in nurseries.

    Outreach
    Several groups made field trips to the project. People from the Department of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension, The Adjuntas Research Staton and NRCS as well as farmers attended. The University of Puerto Rico has visited several times, as well as several groups of students and other people from Puerto Rico and mainland United States.

    The project will continue to be shown to different groups who visit the farm and a local newspaper plans to do a story about it. We are very happy to have contributed somewhat to sustaniability practices through SARE’s help.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.