Newsletter: Conservation agriculture for vegetables, tips and opportunities

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This month we have been thinking about how conservation agriculture can work with horticultural crops. Please, read on!

CONSERVATION AGRICULTURE: NOW FOR VEGETABLES TOO? Mostly used with field crops, conservation agriculture combines three practices to improve soil health: minimal soil disturbance (“no till”), continuous mulch cover, and planting diverse crops. Manuel Reyes of North Carolina A&T State University has been working with our program to find out how vegetable farmers can benefit from using conservation agriculture practices. See highlights below or read the whole article:

With Ph.D. student Don Immanuel Edralin and USDA funding, Reyes began focusing his conservation agriculture work on vegetables with small, intensive plots in North Carolina. Next he led a USAID-funded project with support from the Horticulture Innovation Lab and the SANREM Innovation Lab to compare combinations of conservation agriculture and drip irrigation for vegetable farmers in Cambodia.

In agronomic systems, yields sometimes decrease temporarily during the first transitional seasons of using conservation agriculture. In his work with vegetables in Cambodia so far, there have been no significant differences in yields between treatments.

What has changed with the new practices was the vegetable farmers’ labor. The researchers estimate that growing vegetables on 100 square meters with traditional methods and hand watering requires hauling about 1,300 pounds of water per day during the dry season. Drip irrigation and conservation agriculture freed the women farmers from carrying water, tilling and weeding.

In fact, many of the women farmers were so pleased with the new practices that they asked to end the experiment early, to avoid the extra labor of tilling, hand-watering and weeding required to maintain the field tests. Reyes will continue to work with these farmers, with a new Horticulture Innovation Lab project focused on further spreading the use of conservation agriculture among vegetable growers and marketing vegetables grown with these soil-conserving practices.

Read the whole article:

As told by Manuel Reyes, professor, North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University:
1. Manually till and weed a small plot of land (no more than 200 square meters).
2. Make vegetable beds.
3. Find a source of mulch for your site. Mulch should not contain seeds and not grow vegetatively.
4. Cut mulch and let it dry.
5. Install drip irrigation on the site.
6. Put dried mulch on the entire area including the furrows between the vegetable beds. Mulch should be at least 2.5 inches thick.
… See the rest of the steps at:


CAMBODIA: FARMER GROUPS USING CONSERVATION AGRICULTUREDirector Beth Mitcham recently joined Manuel Reyes in Siem Reap, Cambodia, to visit with women farmers as he begins his new project. See:

TANZANIA: POSTHARVEST TRAINING AND SERVICES CENTERProgram officer Britta Hansen and graduate student researcher Elyssa Lewis attended a refresher course in postharvest training hosted by the World Food Logistics Organization in Arusha, Tanzania, as part of an evaluation of a pilot project. See:


HOW DRYING BEADS EMPOWER FARMERS IN THE TROPICS: In a video on SciDev.Net, Patcharin Taridno of Rhino Research and Poonpipope Kasemsap of Kasetsart University explain how drying beads help farmers dry seed for better germination. Watch:

NEW PROJECT TO PERFORM GENDER-BASED ANALYSIS OF HONDURAS HORTICULTURE: In a press release, Penn State promoted their new project with the Horticulture Innovation Lab and highlighted the roles of Janelle Larson and Leif Jensen, both of Penn State, and Arie Sanders of Zamorano.  More:


GRANT CALL: CLIMATE SMART AGRICULTURE April 15 is the deadline for expressions of interest in response to a broad agency announcement from the USAID Bureau for Food Security focused on helping smallholder agriculture adapt to climate and weather change impacts. More:

EVENT: HEALTHY FOOD FOR A HEALTHY WORLD On April 16, the Chicago Council will focus its Global Food Security Symposium on agriculture to improve global nutrition. The event will be live streamed online at:

GRANT CALL: IPM FOR VEGETABLES, MANGOES IN ASIA May 15 is the deadline for concept notes to the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Integrated Pest Management at Virginia Tech.  U.S. universities, CGIAR institutions, and host country institutions are invited to apply for up to $2.75 million. Apply:

CALL FOR INNOVATIONS: SECURING WATER FOR FOOD May 22 is the deadline for proposals for low-cost, scalable solutions that increase water availability and promote efficient use of water for agriculture. Apply:

NOMINATIONS: IMPRESSA AWARDS June 30 is the deadline to submit nominations of outstanding scientists at African universities who have made significant contributions to agricultural research and science for development in Africa to the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM). Details:


*** THANK YOU FOR READING! We hope you enjoyed this edition and learned something too. Please feel free to share the highlights with your colleagues. Consider sending us tips for news items that you think belong in this newsletter. Between newsletters, find us @HortInnovLabon Twitter, email us at or explore our new blog:

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