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CTA. 2004. Cotton. Rural Radio Resource Pack 04/01. Wageningen, The Netherlands: CTA.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/57448
Dr Watson Mwale of Zambia?s Cotton Development Trust explains some recent developments in weed control for cotton, including the weed wiper, and discusses weed control in conservation farming systems.
Cotton Cue: Competition between cotton plants and weeds is both an important, and difficult problem to solve. Different weeds may affect the crop at different points in the season, although generally it is at the early stages in their development that cotton plants suffer most from weeds. Rotating cotton with, for example, a mixed crop of maize and cowpeas, and carrying out good soil preparation, both help to reduce weed problems, but traditional weed control methods such as hand hoeing are still essential in achieving a good harvest. Hand hoeing is, however, a very labour intensive practice, and in some countries, such as Zambia, the effect of urban migration and HIV/AIDS has meant that labour is scarce. To address this situation, Zambia?s Conservation Farming Unit - known as the CFU - has developed some new tools that can help to make weeding a less laborious job. In our next report, Chris Kakunta speaks to Dr Watson Mwale of the Cotton Development Trust, an organisation which carries out research and training for cotton farmers, including use of Conservation farming methods. Chris began by asking Dr Mwale to describe the importance of weed control in cotton production. IN: ?Weeds are very devastating in? OUT: ?.best way is attack it early.? DUR?N 4?05? BACK ANNOUNCEMENT: Dr Watson Mwale of Zambia?s Cotton Development Trust. Transcript Mwale Weeds are very devastating in all crops but specifically in cotton they can be as devastating as up to 50-60% in terms of crop yields. This is because weeds are a tough competitor, they compete for light, nutrition and moisture. So we need to put in mitigating factors. We need to prepare land early, we need to plant early, we need to start weeding very early. We need to put all measures that can see that the crop grows vigorously as quickly as possible. Because failure to do that, just imagine that the farmer is expecting one ton or 1000 kilograms but he or she ends up with only 400 or 500 kilograms. That is a total big loss. Kakunta Most of the farmers that grow this crop here in Southern Province are smallscale farmers. What methods exactly do they use to control these weeds? Mwale Most farmers, let me say, use hand hoe methods to control weeds. As you are aware that you need to weed in the cotton field maybe three or four times. So spraying is also expensive to buy herbicides. But that is part of what farmers should do. We also want to encourage them to use the lighter tools that can help them, like the modern weed wiper that has been manufactured by CFU. Kakunta For the sake of our listeners Dr Mwale, what do you exactly mean when you say CFU and weed wiper in particular? Mwale It is a very light machine with a cloth at the end and then a tube as long as about a metre or so where the weed chemicals can be put and then it just sprinkles out of the cloth and you wipe between the rows of the cotton crop. That helps a lot because it?s lighter to handle and its quick. Kakunta Now coming to the methods that the farmers actually use, hand hoeing, with the shortages of labour and the advent of HIV/AIDS, how are the farmers managing to weed for instance a hectare of cotton? Mwale That is a very important question in fact it is not only for cotton but more in other crops. When I mentioned the weed wiper earlier on, it is such tools that can actually help from heavy tools to lighter tools, that the farmers can engage. And indeed even hoes, CFU has also designed some type of hoe, which has a good pivot and is light to handle, and we look forward that more innovative initiatives can come into manufacturing, labour-friendly or labour-saving devices. Kakunta And when I look around the Cotton Development Trust I see that a number of trials are actually based on conservation farming? And most farmers actually have been complaining that this is labour intensive in terms of weed control. Mwale Well it is labour intensive in the sense that there is a lot of frequency of weeding, but there are more advantages in taking up conservation farming in terms of returns. But what I?d advise farmers is they should start combating weeds very early. Because you know that weeds over-winter, that is when they grow they bear seeds and seeds remain in the ground. So come the next season they will be the first to attack. So you must also be the first to start controlling them. Should you delay, the whole field will be infested by weeds and they can be overwhelming. So the base is early weed control. Once you do that then conservation farming, the advantages you plant early, you apply fertiliser targeted and you conserve moisture, the returns are high. But the weeds problem is big, the best way is attack it early. End of track.