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Green Manures — You Can Use Them to Improve Your Soils

Sunhemp

Sun hemp grown as a green manure at Kasisi Agriculture Training College⎮ Photo courtesy of KATC

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Why use green manures?

Green manures boost soil fertility, improve soil structure and support the biodiversity of life in the soil. They typically have high nutrient content and when put back into the soil, also contribute to soil organic matter. Soil organic matter is critical for good plant growth. They improve soil structure even when growing as their roots help break up compacted soil and allow for water and air to penetrate the soil. Some even help to suppress weeds and reduce pest populations.

What are green manures?

Green manures are crops that you grow specifically to be put back into the soil while they are still green . Examples are lablab, pigeon pea and cowpea. At the point of flowering, you will turn it back into the soil by mowing or chopping it and mixing it in with a fork a plough or a disk.

How to use green manures

Choose the right green manure crop: The type of crop depends on your soil type, climate and the nutrients that the crop you will plant afterwards needs. For example, legume crops fix nitrogen from the atmosphere in the soil, which can then supply nutrients to the plant.

Prepare the soil and sow seeds: Prepare the soil by clearing the bed and either broadcasting the seed or placing into planting holes.

Incorporating into the soil: Let the plant grow until just before flowering and then either mow or chop the crop and turn it into the soil by hand or with a plough. Disturb the soil as little as possible.

Allow time for decomposition: Allow some time for the green manure to decompose and release its nutrients into the soil. This can take several weeks, avoid planting other crops during this time to allow for decomposition.

Read more on soil fertility in organic agriculture

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REFERENCES

  1. Kasisi Agriculture Training Centre. 2022. Organic Field Crop Production Study Material
  2. Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education. Managing Cover Crops profitably (Online) https://www.sare.org/wp-content/uploads/Cover-Crops-for-Sustainable-Crop-Rotations.pdf

About the Organic Farming Africa Blog

Welcome to The Organic Farming Africa Blog, your dedicated source for sustainable farming practices and organic solutions tailored for African farmers. We understand the unique challenges you face – from soil health to water conservation and crop diversity.

 

Our blog is designed to address these problems, offering practical, tested strategies and insights to enhance your farming practices sustainably. If you cannot find a solution to a specific issue within our articles, we’re here to help. Please reach out to us at organic@koa.org, and we’ll connect you with the answers and support you need. Join us in our journey towards a greener, more sustainable future for African agriculture.

 

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Help us to educate and spread awareness. If you find our article useful, consider sharing your knowledge and experience with other farmers and agriculturalists. Raising awareness can help promote more sustainable organic soil fertility practices. Maybe you want to consider writing an article for our Organic Farming Africa Blog and join the multiplier community. To learn about the benefits, contact KCOA. 

Rabecca Mwila
Author: Rabecca Mwila

PELUM Zambia Communications Officer-KHSA Project

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2 Responses

  1. This post offers a fantastic overview of the benefits and practical steps for using green manures! The clear explanations of how green manures boost soil fertility, improve structure, and support biodiversity highlight their importance for sustainable agriculture. The detailed guide on choosing, planting, and incorporating green manures makes it easy for farmers to adopt this eco-friendly practice. Thanks Rebecca for sharing this!

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