FIELD PRACTICES – CROP ROTATION, MULCHING, ROUTING FIELD PRACTICES & HARVESTING
Field practices are activities carried out on the field to facilitate proper growth and maximum yield of the various crops grown.
They include the following:
- Crop Rotation
- Routing field practices
- Crop protection
This is the growing of different types on the same piece of land in different seasons, in an orderly sequence.
Importance of Crop Rotation
- Maximizes use of nutrients and moisture.
- Breaks the life cycle of pests and disease agents.
- Maintains good soil structure.
- Reduces soil erosion due to adequate soil cover.
- Controls weeds that are specific to certain crops e.g. striga on cereals
- Improves soil fertility when legumes are included in crop rotation.
Factors Influencing Rotational Programme
- Growth habits and nutrient requirements.
- Liability to soil erosion.
- Crops attacked by the same pests and diseases should not follow one another in the programme.
- Availability of capital and market for example beans or peas in legumes.
- This is the placement of materials such as banana leaves or polythene sheets on the ground next to the growing crop.
- These materials should not come into contact with the base of the crop as they may encourage pest attack.
Importance of Mulching
- Reduction of evaporation rate.
- Smothers weeds.
- Moderation of soil temperature.
- Reduction of speed of run offs.
Types of Mulching Materials
Organic mulching materials such as:
- Sawdust, wood shavings, coffee pulps, rice husks,
- Dry grass, banana leaves, dry maize stalk, napier grass.
Inorganic or synthetic materials commonly used are either black or transparent polythene sheets.
Advantages of Mulching
- Prevents water evaporation thus maintaining moisture in the soil for crop use.
- Acts as an insulator thus modifying the soil temperature.
- It helps to control soil erosion.
- It controls weeds by suppressing them.
- After decomposition organic mulch add nutrients to the soil thus improving its fertility.
- Humus produced after the decomposition of organic mulch improves soil structure and the water holding capacity of the soil.
Disadvantages of Mulching
- It is a fire risk.
- Provides a breeding ground as well as a hiding place for pests that finally may attack the crops.
- Traps the light showers of rainfall thus lowering the chances of rain drops reaching the soil.
- It is expensive to acquire, transport and apply.
Routine Field Practices
- Removal of excess, weak, damaged or diseased seedlings.
- Allows the remaining seedlings to get enough nutrients and moisture.
- It is aimed at obtaining optimum plant population.
- Filling the gaps so as to maintain proper plant population.
- Gaps occur as a result of failure of seeds to germinate or dying of seedlings.
- It should be done early enough for the seedlings to catch up with the other plants
- This is the removal and destruction of a diseased part of a plant or the whole plant.
- The destruction can be achieved through burning of the uprooted plant.
- Removal of extra unwanted parts of the plant.
Reasons for pruning are:
- To remove old, unproductive or diseased, damaged parts of the plant.
- To train plants to take a desirable shape for example formative pruning in tea.
- To control crop leave ratio hence avoiding overbearing.
- To control diseases and pests for example antestia bugs in coffee.
- To facilitate other operations such as spraying, picking and seeding.
- To reduce wastage of chemicals applied on the crop.
- To remove branches that interfere with traffic, telephone lines and view.
- Open up the plant to allow free air circulation and exposure of leaves to sunlight.
- Note: Tools used are secateur, pruning saw and pruning knife.
- This is the placement of soil in form of a heap around the base of the plant.
- It is mostly carried out in tuber crops such as Irish and sweet potatoes to improve tuber formation.
- It is also carried out in groundnuts and maize.
- In groundnuts it promotes production of pods while in maize it provides support to prevent lodging.
- Weeds are plants growing where they are not wanted, that is a plant out of place.
- Such plants include blackjack, couch grass, thorn apple and Mcdonald’s eye.
- Such plants should be eradicated or controlled using recommended methods.
- Crop pests are living organisms that are harmful to the crops.
- They include; insects, nematodes, rodents, thrips and mites.
- They cause great damage to crops in the field and stored produce.
Control of Crop Diseases
- A disease is any alteration in the body of an organism and functions of a plant or its parts.
- Disease causing organisms are known as pathogens.
- They include fungi, viruses and bacteria.
- Diseases caused by fungi are referred to as fungal diseases while those caused by viruses and bacteria are referred to as viral and bacterial respectively.
It is the gathering of the farm produce after maturity.
Time of harvesting depends on:
- Stage of maturity of the crops.
- Use of the crop
- Tastes and preferences of consumers.
- Weather conditions, hence liability to spoilage.
Methods of harvesting is determined by:
- Scale of farming for example large scale farming machines are used.
- Type of crop for example pyrethrum is harvested by hand.
- Uniformity in ripening of the crop for example wheat is harvested by use of combined harvester while coffee is harvested by hand.
- Uniformity in height of the crop and size of seed, fruits and flowers.
- Financial status of the farmer.
- Part of the plant to be harvested.
- These are the preparations carried out on crop produce before it gets to the consumer. They include;
- Sorting and grading.
- Sorting and grading
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