In Zimbabwe, benefits of forgotten farming method realized during drought

In Zimbabwe, benefits of forgotten farming method realized during drought.
Better yet, the land is producing a crop even as southern Africa’s droughts grow stronger and more frequent, a problem linked to climate change.
That’s because Mr. Chiweshe is no longer plowing a portion of his farm, but instead planting his seeds directly into the intact soil, a water-conserving technique called “no-till” farming.
Besides planting seeds directly into the soil, no-till farming involves allowing the stalks and leaves left from earlier harvests to remain on the ground, to help hold moisture and eventually add nutrients to the soil, building soil fertility over time.
In some areas where soils are sandy, farmers practicing no-till farming saw yields no higher than those of farmers who plowed their land.
Before taking up no-till farming, he said he harvested just one tonne of maize from his 3-hectare plot last year, during the drought.
This year he expects twice that from just one-sixth of his land.
In Malawi, no-till farmers find they need to spend fewer days each year planting and weeding their fields – though they may need to buy and use herbicides to get rid of weeds without tilling the land, Thierfelder said.
Some farmers say eliminating tilling also has allowed them to plant more crops side-by-side in the same field.
Under a 2011 government plan to promote the practice, each of the country’s 4,300 farm extension officers was expected to train at least 75 farmers a year, said Phillimon Ngirazi, an extension officer from Chavakadzi in Shamva District, about 75 miles northwest of Harare.

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