Thirsty Peanuts

The MFK Agriculture Department is proud to report that the PMIL-lead aflatoxin workshop (Jun 11&12 in Port-au-Prince) and the PMIL Annual Research Meetings (Jun 15-19 in Cap-Haitian) went off without a hitch. Attendance was excellent, with many local and international actors present. During the weeklong meetings, we were able to have a group of approximately 50 guests (many of them peanut experts) tour our factory and the research fields on the MFK campus.  This was an terrific opportunity to showcase the dedicated and hard work of the entire MFK team!

Now, onto some information about our Agriculture Programming…

Most often when people think of the challenges of rainfed agriculture it is drought that comes to mind. However, an overabundance of precipitation or heavy rainfall at inopportune times can also be highly problematic.

Regardless of where you stand on the climate change debate, it is impossible to deny that rainfall patterns are increasingly variable in many areas of the world. This is definitely true for rainfall patterns in Haiti. Farmers and agricultural professionals are having an increasingly difficult time planning cropping seasons due to extreme variations in weather patterns over the last several years.

Traditional cropping seasons can no longer be relied on to inform farmers of planting dates and target harvest periods. Due to the significant changes in these rainfall patterns, it is even difficult for agronomists and agricultural technicians to effectively assist in this planning. However, what these agricultural professionals can do to help local farmers is to introduce concepts and techniques that can help mitigate the nefarious effects of drought or rain surpluses.

Some of the concepts and techniques that MFK works to introduce to our farmer networks and partner organizations are:

  • Importance of appropriate soil type
    • peanuts prefer a well-drained soil
    • sandy, sandy-clay and sandy-loam soils are most appropriate for peanut production
    • these soil types will allow enough drainage that pods will not rot in high rainfall periods and enough water retention that water will still be available in low rainfall periods
      • in addition, these soil types permit easy peg penetration and development; furthermore, these more friable (looser) soils facilitate harvest by not clinging to pods
  • Ridge planting
    • in areas where water drainage can be problematic (heavier soil, high water table, flood plain, etc.), ridge planting is a good option if rainfall surpluses are expected
    • planting on a ridge can provide good water drainage away from the peanut plant and pods
  • Contour canals and bunds
    • on sloped lands, these structures can significantly improve water retention
      • their use is an important soil and water conservation (SWC) technique used to improve hillside farming
    • often used in conjunction, contour canals and bunds can significantly decrease quantities of soil and water erosion
      • when facing heavy rainfall, this means decreasing the amounts of highly fertile topsoil that are washed down the hillside
      • in times of drought, these structures ensure that as much water as possible can be absorbed into the soils closest to the peanut plants
  • Split crop
    • in peanut production, a split crop often occurs when a period of drought hits during the growing season and is followed by a period of more even and continuous rainfall
      • drought causes a halt in the development of pegs and pods
      • subsequent rainfall causes new pegs and pods to develop, essentially causing a second crop production within the same group of plants
    • a split crop is a tough situation for a grower, as they need to decide which part of the crop to harvest at maturity
      • the first factor to consider is what ‘crop’ has the most pods
      • next, if the latter group has more pods, you must decide whether disease pressure is too high and whether the weather will hold out until harvest
    • agricultural professionals have an important role in aiding farmers to understand this challenging phenomenon and to best assess the individual grower situations
  • Improved varieties
    • new varieties of peanuts are continuously being bred by academic and research institutions
      • breeders cross certain interesting genetic traits to generate progeny with the desired characteristic, which, in this case, is drought resistance
    • varieties demonstrating improved drought resistance have the ability to remain stronger and more productive (than many local or traditional landraces) even when periods of drought have hit throughout the growing season

Rainfall is a continuous challenge facing small-scale agriculture, but introducing growers to new concepts and techniques can help mitigate some of the effects and impacts varying precipitation patterns can have. MFK’s agriculture team is working hard to share this and other information with our grower and partner networks in order to benefit local, small-scale peanut farmers.

Cheers,

MFK Agriculture Team