If you could recall, late last year, I published an article on this blog demonstrating the mulching of one-hectare plantain farm with sawdust and I promised to share the result on weed control, harvest and overall performance of mulching plantain with sawdust. The plantain suckers were planted early June 2019 with a plant population of 1200 using a plant spacing of 3m by 3m.
The plantain farm is an organic farm where all farm inputs used during pre-planting and post-planting operations were chemical-free. One of the threats of crop production is weeds; irrespective of the scale of production, if weeds are not carefully managed, the yield would be low and likely leads to loss of investment.
Weeds do not recognize the system of farming used, either organic or inorganic; weeds would thrive as soon as the conditions to favor their growth are present. Mind you, weeds are plants too. The conditions required to foster the growth of your plants are also needed by the weeds. The more enhancements you provide for your crops, in terms of fertilizer, water, etc., the more their growth. It is therefore advised to ensure weeds are eliminated to allow the crops to fully utilize the available resources for their growth only.
One of the ways to control weeds in organic farms is mulching; mulching can be done with plastic, cover crops, debris, and waste from the farm. Sawdust was used in this organic plantain farm and the result, right from the inception of planting till harvesting, was very awesome.
My Experience Using Sawdust To Mulch Plantain Farm
The objective of this trial was primarily to control weed; of course, it did effectively. Not only did it control weeds effectively, but it also added some economic advantage to the plantain.
#1. Weed control
Regarding weed control, the mulch was awesome. The portion mulched was weeded July 24, 2019, after which the sawdust was applied July 30, 2019. The sawdust mulched 400sqm of the 10,000sqm. The weeds observed on the two portions, the mulched portion and the bare soil, differ greatly in density all through the year.
In that case, I would say mulching with sawdust is highly effective at controlling weeds.
#2. Nutrient management
With all honesty, the mulch greatly boosted the fertility of the portion it was applied. The portion mulched with sawdust showed an outstanding performance in all growth parameters compared to the portion left without mulch.
Aside from covering the topsoil, the mulching material (sawdust) is also an organic matter that decomposes with time. Its decomposition leads to the addition of more nutrients into the soil and of better use by the plants because of the little or zero competition of weeds with the plantain farm.
Moisture is another crucial nutrient that must be available in the right quantity and quality to ensure good crop growth. Using sawdust to mulch the plantain, a water-loving plant, made water available for the plantain in most periods of the year. Even during the dry spell, my fear was the heat that would emanate from the sawdust as someone drew my attention to. The plantain survived the dry spell without losing a stand on the mulched portion; in fact, some plantain stands on the bare floor could not survive the dry spell. The sawdust did not only control weeds, but it also served as support and better anchorage during the dry spell.
#3. Emergence of suckers
At a very early stage of cultivation, there were lots of suckers sprouting from the mother plant. This was not the same as the portion left without mulching. It means you can multiply your plantation with little suckers when you mulch with sawdust.
Removing the suckers helps to limit the growth parameters, nutrients, air, water, and space, to the mother plant; this enhances high yield when done.
#4. Early fruiting an early harvest
Of the 1200 stands of plantain on the farm, harvesting had been done twice as at the end of March 2020, on the portion mulched with sawdust ONLY. The plantain stands on the portion mulched started producing flowers are early as December 2019.
The first harvest was done on March 20, 2020, and the plantain harvested had an appreciable number of fingers. We expect more harvest of plantain on the mulched portion before April 2020 runs out.
If this worked greatly for plantain, I am sure it would work better on other crops. Try it out on other crops, preferably on a small portion and observe their performance before adopting larger plots. This is one of the effective ways to farm cheaply and sustainably. Agriculture is the only profession that can greatly utilize waste productively.
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