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Research to improve soil management in Africa

Posted 21 October 2014

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Joe Martlew

African farmers will be able to improve their soil management thanks to new technical guidelines that are being produced through work by Harper Adams University.

The investigation is being led by postgraduate research student, Joseph Martlew, and is sponsored by AGCO Corporation - which is establishing a training farm in Zambia.

Soil is damaged when farmers use agricultural machinery, which in turn affects a farmer’s ability to produce crops with maximum efficiency.

This study aims to compare different farm traffic systems for row crops such as maize and soya, and combine this with different forms of soil preparation – a technique known as tillage.

23-year-old Joe from Chichester, said: “This research will look at the interaction between traffic intensity and tillage type on soil health, crop health and yield, specifically in sub-Saharan Africa.

“In partnership with AGCO, we will be establishing a three-year field trial to assess the interaction so that best practice guidelines for farmers can be produced.”

The three types of trafficking that Joe will be investigating are random traffic, low ground pressure tyres and controlled traffic farming – a concept popular in Australia, Canada and the Americas.

This will be combined with three African-focused tillage methods including strip tillage and no tillage.

Joe added: “Rather than just copying UK systems, this research should give African farmers their own guidelines, modelled on their own environment.

“Once the trial has been completed, we will publicise the results through scientific papers, press releases and knowledge transfer training events at the AGCO Future Farm in Zambia.”

Joe is currently spending three months in Zambia, establishing the field design for the trial and characterising the soil.

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