Mulching to protect pineapples during the rainy season
May 21, 2014
A two-season climate, in which the land receives overabundant rain over a partial year, dictates that steps be taken to cope with the heavy rains during the wet season, which started this month in Sierra Leone.
Mulching the pineapple crop was a natural choice for preserving the soil, which can easily wash away during a month of 20 or more inches of rain. To return native nutrients to the local soil and to use a readily available resource (brush and stumps that were removed from land during field preparation), we initially tried chipping logs with cutlasses (machetes). This method proved too work-intensive and didn’t produce mulch as quickly as we needed it. Another option was to utilize dead brush of smaller existing size, but that method would have resulted in germination of unwanted plants that would compete with our pineapple plants for nutrients.
A future mulching possibility, which has been suggested by an Njala University soil scientist, involves the use of Mucuna, an edible legume that can serve as a cover crop. In the meantime, we have settled on a method of mulching with dead sticks, broken by hand into small pieces and spread on top of the dirt and underneath each plant. The mulch protects the soil from the movement of water as it falls and forms rivulets; and as it rots, it returns nutrients to the soil and adds to the soil base, which is a necessary practice to maintain a fertile growing field.
In April, local workers logged 1600 hours of mulching to prepare for the rainy season. To date we have planted and mulched just shy of five acres. With a sixth acre prepped for planting, we are hoping to receive another shipment of suckers from Africa Felix Juice within the next month.