Experimental Trials Lead to More Farmer Education

Just how many peanuts should you plant? A seemingly simple question often doesn’t have a simple answer. But here at MFK we strive to answer many of these questions giving farmers the tools they need to watch their harvests and pockets grow.

Last week the MFK Agricultural team harvested three experimental trials as part of our mission to increase yields and incomes for Haitian farmers. Each one of these experiments not only gives us valuable data but more importantly gives us the opportunity to learn and teach.

Breeding for knowledge:

The first trial gave way to an important variety screening. Our peanut breeding program focuses on finding favorable traits in varieties from all over the world. We have seeds from Africa, India, the United States as well as local Haitian varieties. In every trial we work to help Haitian farmers increase yields. We look for many characteristics, like resistance to common (often devastating) disease pressures. Our peanut breeding work doesn’t start and stop here in Haiti. We contribute to the much larger Peanut & Mycotoxin Innovation Lab (PMIL) program. This gives us access to collaborate with breeders from all over the world, and increase data collection. This constant commitment to sharing information is evident not only from the trials we run but also in research show and tells. In June, PMIL organized an international meeting and brought stakeholders together in Haiti. Also, earlier this month researchers here in Haiti got a chance to visit the University of Florida where they showcased their research. Breeders from all over the United States, Africa, the Middle East and Asia attended. This again gave researchers the opportunity to learn from one another, and improve upon already ongoing collaborations.

Space for improvement:

From home gardens to large farms, any grower knows cultural practices play a huge role in end results. Farmers are constantly faced with decisions that can make or break their season. Our second trial focused on one piece of the puzzle, – just how close should peanut seeds be planted to provide optimal results. This is a tricky balancing act. Too many peanuts and they compete with each other; fighting for resources, pushing each other out of the way. And in this fight for survival yields decrease, individual peanut size shrinks, causing aflatoxins and disease to increase. Give peanuts too much space and you may miss out on an opportunity for a heavier harvest, or may give other plants the opportunity to overtake your sparsely planted fields. This experiment gives us the information we need to be able to better serve our farmers. Through our technical trainings we share this knowledge and give local farmers one more tool in their peanut production kit.

Nourishing the soil:

In our third trial harvested we got a better idea of how soil nutrients effects peanut yields. We know many of the farmers we work with have small farms on marginal lands and need to be able to give them realistic estimates on just what fertilizer can do for their crops. We need to be able to help them choose the right fertilizer and the right amount. We teach that soil health depends on much more than rain and manure, and we continually work to give recommendations that deliver results. We have multiple soil centric experiments going at the moment and are pleased to welcome our Agricultural Intern, Rick, to the team. Rick is currently conducting research on both the agronomic and socio-economic effects that have occurred from changes in the soil since the devastating earthquakes in 2010.

There is no such thing as a silver bullet that can transform Haiti’s agricultural sector. We take it one experiment at a time and strive to not only gather important information but share it as well.

MFK Agriculture Team