Practical Lessons in Conservation Agriculture at Ukulima Farm

Dr. Jim Muir, professor of soil and crop sciences at Texas A&M University, is resident director of the Ukulima Farm Research Center in South Africa. Contact him directly at j-muir@tamu.edu and learn more about Ukulima by visiting borlaug.tamu.edu/Ukulima.

In the final week of March the Ukulima Farm Research Center conducted a training for seven Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) “Seed Entrepreneurs”. The participants are seed production pioneers who actively disseminate improved crop varieties and agricultural technologies to poor farmers in their respective home countries of Burkina Faso, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, and Niger. The Borlaug Institute and the Howard G Buffett Foundation partnered to provide these participants with practical lessons in Conservation Agriculture that will enhance outreach efforts for smallholder farmers.

Conservation Agriculture aims to achieve sustainable and profitable agricultural production through the application of three principles: minimal soil disturbance, permanent soil cover, and crop rotations. Although it is applicable across farms and agro-ecological systems of variable size and make-up, Conservation Agriculture is particularly promising for smallholder farmers, especially those facing acute labor shortages.

The recent training included field and classroom demonstrations that highlighted approaches, concepts, and problem-solving in Conservation Agriculture. Participants visited active research operations at Ukulima Farm where they studied the importance of no-till, cover crops, and animal power in Conservation Agriculture. They also visited a Monsanto research facility where they were given a first-hand look at modern seed production and gained insight into selection and breeding processes for the Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) project funded in part by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation. Participants have returned to their home countries with tangible expertise that will improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers throughout Africa.

To find out more about training and partnership opportunities at the Ukulima Farm Research Center in South Africa please contact us at dispatches@borlauginstitute.org

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