AFUUG: Makes a Crop More Resilient to Drought
Afuug is a Somali word. Its meaning is somewhat difficult to translate into English. It refers to the acknowledgement by Somali farmers that they see a yield increase when they grow a crop – typically maize – in a field following a banana crop. The added fertility from the banana plant residue is what causes afuug. Ciid bacriman translates to ‘fertile soil’. Thus, the observed afuug is a result of ciid bacriman.
Fertile soils are soils that have ample crop nutrients in the soil for crop production. Without ample crop nutrients in the soil, crop yields will be reduced. The most important plant nutrients are nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K), which plants obtain from the soil through their roots. Plants will grow bigger and yield more when these nutrients are present in soils in forms that plants can utilize.
Based on soil tests, many Somali soils don’t have enough plant-available N and P. This limits production of crops like maize and sorghum. Manure, as well as plant residue, breaks down to supply these nutrients to the soil. These nutrients are then available to the following crop.
In Somalia, however, most of the plant residue isn’t allowed to stay on the field and break down. Instead, it is fed to livestock. The manure from these animals is often not available in the right place and in large enough quantities to adequately supply the nutrients the following crops require for good growth and high yield.
Without an adequate supply of N, P, and K the crops simply will not produce a high yield.
Even more importantly, these nutrients – especially P – help young plants grow a more vigorous root system, allowing roots to explore more soil for more nutrients and more water. In this manner, adequate soil fertility enables plants to be more efficient in capturing water from the soil. In times of drought, a more fertile soil utilizes water more efficiently than a nutrient-poor soil.
When a drought occurs during the growing season, it is known that a fertile soil will use the water available in a more efficient manner – meaning more production. Thus, the use of fertilizer gives the crop more resilience in times of drought.
Diammonium phosphate (DAP) is a fertilizer containing 18% N and 46% ‘P’. Research conducted in Somalia by SATG shows the yield benefit of applying DAP to the soil at the proper time, at the proper amount, and in the proper place. This can result in a substantial yield increase in maize and sorghum. The application of DAP results in an afuug situation in the soil – it helps produce ciid bacriman.
The use of fertilizer gives the crop more resilience in times of drought.
Of course, fertilizer by itself does not guarantee a more resilient crop. In addition to proper fertility, good agricultural practices, such as timely planting, appropriate seeding rate, using quality seed, and timely weeding, are needed to maximize crop production.
- Dr. Paul Porter
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