Summer cover crops have been introduced into the Bergville trial process as part of a process for experimentation with crop rotation for those farmers who are uncomfortable with inter cropping or want to try out both systems.

A Four block trial has been set up:

  • 10mX10m: Summer cover crop mix (sunnhemp, millet and sunflower) (dolichos has been planted separately
  • 10mx10m : Maize
  • 10mx10m beans
  • 10mx10m: Winter cover crop mix (planted to maize for summer season) (Sais oats, fodder rye and fodder radish)

Given the extreme weather conditions, the expectation that the summer cover crops would germinate and grow better than the maize and beans has been well justified. The results are however somewhat disappointing as there has been extreme grazing pressure from goats and cattle. In a number of villages the cattle have not been sent into the mountains for summer grazing as the veld has not recovered after winter due to lack of rain. Livestock are thus roaming freely within the fields

Name and Surname Village Planting date Layout of SCC trial % ground cover % germination Notes
Mr N T Madondo Potshini 2016/01/28 5x100m rows

Millet, sunhemp and cowpea mix

55% stover with some actively growing weeds ~90% millet and sunnhmep

~60% cowpea

Good ground cover and organic matter due to long term CA. Cattle are already invading the field and grazing the cover crops. Haraka planter used- wheel had to be adjusted for good spread of seed as plates not entirely suitable for SCC mixes.
Mr Vilakazi Potshini 2016/01/29 34mx86m

Millet, sunnhemp, cowpea mix

25% stover. A lot of actively growing weeds ~85% germination Herbicide (Emerald)was sprayed two days after planting largely ineffective. No fertilization
Mrs Phumelele Hlongwane Ezibomvini 2015/12/04 10mx10m plots:

-1xMaize, dolichos

-1x millet, sunnhemp and sunflower mix

10% stover- ~90% millet

~95% sunnhemp

~15% sunflower

~65% dolichos

~65% maize – replanted

~35% beans

3rd year of CA

Here the germination and growth of the drought resistant crops such as millet, sunnhemp, cowpeas and dolichos are obviously better than the maize and beans.

Mr Mtoleni Nkabinde Ezibomvini 2015/12/05 12x8m plots:

-1x millet, sunnhemp and sunflower mix

-1xdolichos

5% -little cover- weeding reducing what little is there ~75% for millet, sunnhemp and sunflower

~40% dolichos

~30% maize

~15-20% beans

Scc are being eaten by poultry and goats.

The maize plot is only now starting to germinate and already showing signs of damage by livestock

Mrs Zimba Ezibomvini 2015/12/18 Separate rows 10m:

-2xdolichos

-1x sunnhemp

-1x sunnhemp, millet

-1x millet

-3xcowpea

15% cover –stover and dead weeds ~90% for all scc

~65% maize

~15-20% beans

Planted the maize and scc at the same time, but the scc only came up a lot later- germination however has been good. Weeding is an issue. No spraying has resulted in a lot of couch grass encroachment
Mrs Fikile Benghu Goba 2015/12/17 10x10m plot of dolichos and sunnhemp scc mix %% stover; a lot of actively growing weeds and grass ~80-90% for scc’s

~60% maize

She did not spray herbicide or use fertilizer

Below are few photographs outlining the summer cover crop planting progress.

Mr Madondo’s SCC planting (Potshini); Millet germinated well(far left) but is being grazed. Sunnhemp also germinated but slightly later and cowpeas are germinating slowly. Weed competition is going to be a problem- spraying of Round-up has been somewhat inefficient due to weather conditions:

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Mr Vilakazi’s scc planting (Potshini). Weed competition is already problematic as spraying with herbicide was largely ineffective:

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Good germination of millet, sunnhemp and cowpea in this plot:

C:\Users\Kruger\Documents\Conservation Agriculture\Pics\Bergville monitoring 19 Jan 2016 Ezibomvini, Goba, Emangweni_001_3.jpg

Phumelele Hlongwane’s trial plantings:

Ezibomvini: Summer cover crops that have germinated and grown well:

C:\Users\Kruger\Documents\Conservation Agriculture\Pics\Bergville monitoring 19 Jan 2016 Ezibomvini, Goba, Emangweni_001_8.jpg

Maize and bean intercrops – Beans are not doing well:

C:\Users\Kruger\Documents\Conservation Agriculture\Pics\Bergville monitoring 19 Jan 2016 Ezibomvini, Goba, Emangweni_001_9.jpg

Maize and cowpea intercrop. Cowpeas have done a lot better than beans. There is heat damage visible on maize and different sizes indicate replanting where maize did not germinate initially:

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Phumelele’s plots at end of Jan 2016:

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Dolichos now growing well. Cowpeas and maize well recovered after recent rains and the SCC plot showing good growth and cover:

C:\Users\Kruger\Documents\Conservation Agriculture\Pics\Bergville_Monitroing_Ndunwane_Mlhlwazini-Ezibomvini 27 Jan 2016_001_9.jpg

 

Below: Phumelele’s SCC plot in Feb 2016; Sunnhemp flowering:

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Sunflowers in flower:

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Millet going to seed:

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Mr Nkabindes trial plantings (Ezbomvini). The lack of germination of maize and beans is clear as is the inordinate weed pressure resulting:

C:\Users\Kruger\Documents\Conservation Agriculture\Pics\Bergville monitoring 19 Jan 2016 Ezibomvini, Goba, Emangweni_001_12.jpg

The SCC trial plot, showing millet, sunnhemp having germinated well and sunflower on the upper slope. The mottled growth pattern is due to grazing by poultry and goats, rather than variable germination:

C:\Users\Kruger\Documents\Conservation Agriculture\Pics\Bergville monitoring 19 Jan 2016 Ezibomvini, Goba, Emangweni_001_14.jpg

 

Germination of the SCC planting of dolichos in Mrs Zimba’s trial plot (Ezibomvini):

 

C:\Users\Kruger\Documents\Conservation Agriculture\Pics\Bergville monitoring 19 Jan 2016 Ezibomvini, Goba, Emangweni_001_15.jpg

Germination of the sunnhemp and millet mix in Mrs Zimba’s plot. Germination is good, but weed pressure is great. As germination of the SCC’s was retarded early weeding was not done:

C:\Users\Kruger\Documents\Conservation Agriculture\Pics\Bergville monitoring 19 Jan 2016 Ezibomvini, Goba, Emangweni_001_16.jpg

Germination of cowpeas is good. The maize plants above this plot show patchy germination and they are struggling to grow:

C:\Users\Kruger\Documents\Conservation Agriculture\Pics\Bergville monitoring 19 Jan 2016 Ezibomvini, Goba, Emangweni_001_17.jpg

 

Winter cover crops

The mechanical weeding push planters were used to both weed and assist in a low level of tillage for both planting of late season beans and winter cover crops. The winter cover crop mix consists of saia oats, fodder rye and fodder radish. A few farmers agreed also to mix in some of the summer cover cops seeds (millet and sunnhemp) in this mix to create a whole cocktail.

Mr Hlongwane in Stulwane; Using the mechanical weeder to prepare for planting of beans, its week of February 2016 and weeding of his bean plot after germination a week later:

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Mr Ndolvu from Nkandla , along with Malinga preparing for planting of winter cover crops using the mechanical weeders:

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Phumelele Hlongwane in Ezibomvini using the mechanical weeder to prepare for relay cropping of winter cover crops in her crop rotation plat.

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