New farming systems for Guyana's sandy soils
MetadataShow full item record
CTA. 1989. New farming systems for Guyana's sandy soils. Spore 21. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/45060
December 5-9-1988, at Georgetown, Guyana, to discuss 'Farming Systems for Low Fertility Acid, Sandy Soils'
The CARICOM countries would like to be self-sufficient in basic foodstuffs - but as their populations grow, it becomes more and more difficult to see where this food might be produced. Most of the CARICOM countries are the Caribbean islands, which lack really large tracts of agricultural land. As the island populations grow, CARICOM's concern is again turning to the production potential of the acid, sandy soil of the intermediate savannah lands in Guyana and Suriname, on the South American mainland. These are not the easiest soils to cultivate: their fertility is relatively low, and they are easily eroded and compacted. Yet they are extensive, and their production potential cannot be ignored indefinitely. Although the CARICOM countries have little experience of managing these soils, relevant experience has been gained in South America and elsewhere. The Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development institute (CARDl) felt that the time had come to review the present state of knowledge of the management of such soils, and proposed that CTA should sponsor a seminar focusing on this topic. CTA accepted CARDl's proposal and a five-day meeting was held from December 5-9-1988, at Georgetown, Guyana, to discuss 'Farming Systems for Low Fertility Acid, Sandy Soils'. Before the m eeting, it was agreed that three issues should be addressed: firstly, the means of managing the soils themselves, from the point of view of controlling their fertility, selecting land preparation methods and the various aspects of soil/water relationships; secondly, the crop and livestock systems considered suitable for these soils; and finally the economics of farming systems appropriate to such soils. In advance of the meeting, CTA commissioned Professor N.Ahmed, of the University of the West Indies, to prepare an overview paper: it reviews both the characteristics of the acid, sandy soils and also the general research and development strategies of the last ten years. The Georgetown meeting was attended by 80 delegates. Although the majority came from the host country, 16 countries were represented, including Brazil. A highlight of the meeting for most delegates was the air excursion to the intermediate savannah, to see the farming and research activities of LIDCO, NARI and CARDI at Ebini and Kimbia. After several days of lively debate, delegates drew three broad conclusions. Firstly, that a systems approach to agricultural research and production was crucial for successful management and exploitation. Secondly, that continuous monocropping of open row crops was highly unlikely to be sustainable and should not be recommended. Finally, that an approach whereby multidisciplinary teams of research scientists working to develop production systems in close alliance with commercial producers would seem to offer the best means of dealing effectively with the attending complex technical and managerial factors. Several specific production models were proposed: to rotate short-term row crops with pasture systems, so that the frequent breaks from annual crops would promote improved soil structure, re-introduce organic matter and control weeds. The output could be a variety of crop products (soybean, peanut, cowpea) or animal products (beef, milk, mutton). Another suggested option was a system based on perennial crops, such as oil palm, mango and citrus, possibly in association with pastures or even open row crops during the establishment phase. Finally, an agroforestry system was proposed in which arable crops would be alley-cropped in conjunction with leucaena or glyricidia; the agroforesty species could provide a useful source of forage during the dry months of the year. To develop these systems further, research would have to include fertilizer and liming requirements; tillage methods and systems; pest and disease management; selection of suitable cultivars, particularly forages; and agrometeorological data collection and analysis. To promote future research and development, it was suggested that both formal and informal networks should be established and that more attention should be paid to assembling, reviewing and publishing relevant information. Although the meeting focused on the technical challenges, delegates accepted that other problems would have to be tackled before any of these systems could be developed commercially. There is an acute labour shortage in the intermediate savannahs, and the present transport facilities would not permit the produce to reach the markets. It emerged clearly that most CARICOM countries would welcome this contribution to the region's food production but it remains to be seen whether this commitment is sufficient to enable adequate funds to be mace available to pay for the necessary research and development work.