From Fields to Formulas: Part I

I am Andrew Coco, a Sustainable Development Intern with SOIL this summer.  I studied Environmental Studies concentrating in Sustainability at the University of Vermont and have been friends with SOIL for the past four years.  My official title is Konsiltan Agrikilti (Agricultural Consultant) and I am assisting SOIL with map-making, compost application history, laboratory work, and photography.  My work so far has been exciting, and there has never been a shortage of ways to get involved!

Last week I got to join the SOIL team at our agricultural research farm in Penye for the harvest of our sorghum experiment.  Penye, a half-hour drive outside of Port-au-Prince, is the site for our experimental garden projects, where we apply different quantities of compost to common Haitian food crops. We are trying to determine which treatments of compost work best for greatest plant yields, while also being a cost-effective strategy for Haitian farmers in today’s market.

We harvested a large sorghum experiment that was started in the beginning of April. There were twenty plots to be harvested, with five replicates each of four different compost treatments: zero compost, 13 tons/ha, 26 tons/ha, and 39 tons/ha treatments. The agriculture staff were excited to get out to Penye, and everyone had a good time in the field making jokes, singing songs, and posing for my incessant photography. With many hands and a quick pace, we were able to harvest the crop in no time at all.

140707 Penye XPR Pitimi Group

The harvest team shows off the fruits of their labor.

We escaped the heat from the afternoon sun under the shade of our big mango tree while we weighed and photographed the experiment’s results. We used a scale fastened to the mango tree to weigh each drum of sorghum, and I photographed each drum with the respective identifying sign from the field. The total combined wet weight of all the sorghum harvested was over 180 pounds!

This is great news to the SOIL team, and we will use this information for our compost application analysis to determine which amount of compost could serve Haitian farmers best. Once the crops finishing drying, we’ll measure weights again (for more accurate results than wet weights) and complete a market analysis to gauge the potential profits for farmers looking to apply SOIL compost in their fields. The SOIL staff eagerly look forward to working with this sorghum data and invite you to join us for the next part in our series, From Fields to Formulas, Part II!

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