Busy time lately with trying to harvest the first season crop and work ground and plant the second season crop. The harvest of the first season beans went badly. It was just too wet. When the beans were dry enough to harvest, but not too dry so they would shatter when the combine cutter header hit them you had about 30 minutes and then it would rain and put the process off for a few days. We got some of them, but others rotted on the plants. Lesson learned is never plant beans during the first rainy season in the plateau region. Its just too wet during the growing season for beans and too much rain to get them harvested. We also harvested the potatoes from the first season as well that were planted from seed harvested from the planting in May 2013. They did pretty good. We did not plant that many as we gave or sold a lot of the production. Here is the harvest crew for the potato harvest in Nkoumou. The guys in front of me are from a nearby Pygmy village so they really are that short.
Got a year of rainfall data now for the Lekana farm and another David weather station set up now at the Nkoumou farm. The totals are:
The southern part of Congo Brazzaville gets about half or less of this amount and is presently in a drought situation. I am sure the northern jungles get more than these totals. North Africa mostly gets almost no rain and Southern parts of Africa get some with some really dry parts as well. Central Africa is the really wet part with very acid soils that are mostly washed out of most nutrients as a result. That is the challenge here the soils and too much rain at times. Since a came from an area that normally got 6 inches of annual rain/snow and we were in a serious drought the last three years, where even the native weeds were starting to die, this is an incredible amount of rain.
The first season corn harvest is really to start now. We have made some test runs and are ready to get going once I get enough bags to store the harvested crop. I’m in the capital city, Brazzaville now organizing that and other supplies. The combine up north only has a grain cutter header. No special corn header so we have to make due. We tilted the header as far up as it would go to help gravity feed the corn ears into the combine, put some palm frond stems on the reel to help push the corn stalks into the cutter bars and tried things out till I found that you needed the header pretty low and then almost all the corn went into the combine. Once the corn is in the combine that John Deere does a good job threshing out the corn. Some friends in the US with combining experience helped me like you want to match the reel speed with the ground speed so the reel just holds the stems into the cutter bar. They also told ne that beans are the hardest thing to combine so corn will be easy. Now its time to just step back and have the tractor drivers learn by experience to drive this thing.
Worked up about 350 Ha or 790 Acres of ground up to plant this second season. Wanted to do more, but the constant rains slow down the work. You just cannot pull a disk through wet ground with lots of vegetation. We need to get ahead next dry season in June - Aug in preparing new ground. Now that all the equipment is in place and the workers are better trained that should be possible. Planted more corn, more beans that should do better this second season. We also got some new Red potato seed from the US (Cheiftains and Red LaSodas from Washington state). We planted some on the farms and also did some partnership plantings with local grower groups with the same seed.
I put a female tractor driver on the staff. Traditionally in most of Central and other parts of Africa the women do all the farming work. Clearing the land, planting the manioc, weeding it and hauling the harvested tubers home. Very physical work. The men traditionally did the hunting and protecting the village. Nowadays with rifles the hunting is a lot quicker. So why with mechanized agriculture shouldn’t women be part of the project. I get very mixed responses to this action. So far so good.
Planted a little rice (30 Ha or 74 acres). They eat a fair amount of rice here, not near the amount of manioc which is the base starch eaten here. Rice has been a target crop to plant in other projects in the past, but now we are going to try it again. Not sure if we can compete locally with the cheap imported rice from India and Thailand, but I am excited to try. It will be upland rice. The next farm they want to open farther north they want to grow paddy rice and there are good places around Oyo for that, but that takes a fair amount of preparation to be able to flood ground and then dry it up for harvest. The grain planted I used is so small. Took a lot of passes to plant that rice.
The final crop will be around 50 HA of Soybeans. Would have planted them earlier, but the seed got held up in customs. I really wanted to get some soy planted and harvest this season as it is key to producing quality animal feed and a corn coy blend foods for the school lunch program. We planted the beans in a cross pattern to increase the plant population to increase yield, help shade out seeds and help the combine do a better job as the plants in front help hold up the ones at the cutter bar so it cuts them and they do not just fold over. Will do the same with the soybeans as soy growers in the US told me they are doing this as well and getting a 20% yield boost over just planting the lines closer together. We planted some beans with close interline spacing as well as a comparison.