On Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of last week, I was a lucky camper and headed to el campo (the field) to observe coffee and beans and maíz, oh my!
The organization I’m working for promotes sustainable agricultural practices. This means promoting practices like the 4Rs, interpreting soil analyses and fertilizing accordingly, and intercropping. I saw coffee intercropped with beans, which promote nitrogen fixation, a vital resource for the coffee plants. Some beans, like the gandul (pigeon pea) grow into tall tree-like plants, while the canavalia variety are more vine-like than shrub-like. In addition to their nitrogen services, they provide shade (especially the gandul) and ground cover which maintain soil moisture, a necessity in the tropics with intense sun exposure.
I got to follow my teammates who know if there’s a phosphorous deficiency by looking at the plant, and who can recommend to switch from an 18-20-0 fertilizer to an 18-46-0 fertilizer without blinking. Many of the farmers that we met had changed their practices to include many of these best-management methods and in a few years have seen results. Their plants are healthier, and they’re spending less on fertilizers. They have less soil erosion from maintaining ground cover and planting perpendicular to the hill-slope.
Also we saw a lot of baby animals (see baby pigs and calves below), and the vistas from the farms were astounding. Yesterday, we went to parcels in Ahuachapan, one of the highest areas in El Salvador, and from the farmer’s plot, we could see all the way to the ocean.
Earlier this week, I visited a soils lab at national university CENTA. The lab was excited at the possibility of having another collaborator, and someone to help with the mountain of soil samples they process.
I’ve been busy, and learning a lot so that I can be even more analytical in my interpretations of soil data.
…but not too busy for a mid-week surf, with an incredible sunset, and my first trail-run 10k in Comasagua.