Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization (ECHO) Research at Ukulima Farm: The Impact of Legumes on Soil Biology

Ukulima Farm Research Center - Meet the Researchers!

Jerry and Meaghan Kenney, program coordinators at the Borlaug Institute, are currently based at the Ukulima Farm Research Center in South Africa. Ukulima Farm is part of a new strategic partnership between the Howard G. Buffett Foundation and the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture of the Texas A&M University System to promote African agricultural research, extension, and education. This Dispatch is the first in a series aimed at informing the public about the research being conducted by the research organizations currently working at the center.

Brandon Lingbeek (left) and Christopher D’Aiuto work with Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization (ECHO), one of the research partners at Ukulima Farm. In this photo, they stand in front of their Zai sorghum field. (Photo by Meaghan Kenney for

Who: Brandon Lingbeek and Christopher D’Aiuto with Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization (ECHO)

What: Trying to determine the most beneficial legumes for making green manure to improve soil biology and nutrients in low input systems

How: Develop a pre-test soil biology and nutrient baseline, particularly looking for nitrogen levels.  Plant multiple legumes, including pigeon pea, cowpea, jack bean, sunhemp, fish bean, and lab lab and mucuna variations, in different mono-cropped and inter-cropped treatments for a variety test.  Use low input farming techniques (no fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides, irrigation, or machinery) characteristic of smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa.  Collect regular weather readings as well as soil and leaf temperature data, plant height, and other information.  Test soil four times per year to determine nutrient content.  Collect, dry, and grind biomass from each treatment.  Send the biomass samples to SGS labs in Cape Town to test for nutrient content and the carbon nitrogen ratio.  Repeat this process for several seasons in the same area to identify soil and biomass trends.

Brandon and Chris show Jerry the ECHO field trials. (Photo by Meaghan Kenney for

Biggest Challenges: Porcupine have been problematic in the maize/mucuna study and nematodes have been more of a minor problem. The main issue we are dealing with in the legumes is antecedent soil conditions, like compaction and herbicide and pesticide residuals from last season.

Interesting Finding: Some legumes, such as lab lab and mucuna, provide much better cover for suppressing weed growth.

Why Does this Matter?: If we can figure out which legumes grow well and improve soil biology and nutrient levels in semi-arid environments under low-input farming systems, then we can apply these findings to help smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa not only build but regenerate their soils.

Have a question or want to know more about Brandon and Chris’s research (or need a good pizza crust recipe)? Send them an email!

Christopher D’aiuto — 

Brandon Lingbeek —

One Response to Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization (ECHO) Research at Ukulima Farm: The Impact of Legumes on Soil Biology

  1. Friends at ECHO

    Allow me to introduce myself. We are Don and Ruthie Hawkinson. We have been missionaries to Russia for many years. We lived in Palm Harbor, Florida. The leadership of our organization has been led of God to focus on Asia and the Pacific. We have done a great deal of research. Over the years we have been thrilled to see to mission of ECHO and how God has used it. We are most anxious to talk with you. Please provide me with your phone and contact. Very anxious to talk with you.
    480 392 077
    Don Hawkinson

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