Research & Development
A key part of the work that Growing Nations carry out at their demonstration farm is research & development of Conservation Agriculture (CA) techniques and best practices which can help farmers across Lesotho and beyond.
Growing Nations has worked on a variety of research projects with different partner organisations since it was established in 2008. These have included the following partners:
University of Tennessee & National University of Lesotho (2008-2013)
Growing Nations worked extensively with Dr's Neal Eash & Forbes Walker from the University of Tennessee, USA (UT), in conjunction with the National University of Lesotho (NUL). Their work at Growing Nations included research into optimum plant populations, crop varieties & yields, fertiliser application trials, monitoring carbon sequestration, soil quality & erosion and the impact of cover crops at Maphutseng.
The research work that UT carried at Maphutseng included studies into how changing farming methods can impact soil degredation & crop yields. The studies were split into 4 field trials, as follows:
- Good staying good - A CA field continuing to be farmed using CA methods;
- Good going bad - A CA field being farmed using conventional methods, i.e. ploughing;
- Bad staying bad - A conventionally farmed field continuing to be farmed conventionally;
- Bad going good - A previously ploughed field being farmed using CA methods.
Part of this research was done using Bowens Ratio Units, which monitor carbon levels, temperature & other environmental conditions. These units, which can be seen in the images below, were subsequently moved to CIMMYT in Zimbabwe where UT are carrying out similar research.
Research was also carried out into different varieties of cover crops & which ones produced the best cover. Varieties tested included Grazing Vetch, Pink
Growing Nations own research (2008 onwards)
Growing Nations is constantly reviewing and developing best practices for farmers in Lesotho.
Growing Nations has been trailing the impact of cover crops. Not only do they reduce erosion, through covering the soil particularly during the winter periods after harvesting, but trials have also shown that planting cover crops reduces the need for fertiliser application in subsequent years. This research has identified grazing vetch as the best cover crop to grow.
GRM - SAMP Project (2014-2016)
Haraka Planter Development
Growing Nations successfully developed a 'Rotary Punch Planter for Women', in conjunction with engineer Adriaan Jacobs from Eden Equip, having been awarded grant monies to develop it through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The planter was designed specifically with women farmers in mind with the aim of enable them to farm on their own, allowing them to take control of their own field & reducing their reliance on the use of animals, which in many African countries women are culturally not able to work with. The planter is designed in such a way to allow fields to be planted quickly also allowing women to free up time for their many other roles in society.
The prototype planter was tested by farmers in 7 different African countries and has since been improved and refined. The Haraka Planter is now being produced commercially and is available in Lesotho through Growing Nations. More details about the planter can be found here.