Nelly Bassily | May 30, 2011
In many regions of Africa, maize is traditionally planted with two, three or four seeds per hole. Farmers may be reluctant to change practices they believe to work, or they may worry that one seed per hole is too few and too risky. But in Malawi, as farmers experiment with what they call “one-to-one” planting, (sometimes called one-one, or one-by-one planting), they are discovering that yields are higher. One explanation for this is that there are fewer seeds and seedlings per hole to compete for the available water, sunlight and nutrients. The result is more likely to be one healthy, productive plant rather than two or three weaker and less productive plants. The distance between planting stations can also affect each plant’s performance. The underlying principle behind both these cases is known in scientific terms as “plant density” or “plant spacing.” Spacing between plants affects competition between plants, which in turn affects yields. Also, when the individual plants grow well, the maize forms a canopy which prevents weed growth and reduces soil erosion. One hectare planted in this way can produce a lot more maize, as the farmers in this story discovered. This technique is promoted by the government of Malawi.
One-to-one planting was one of the topics addressed in FRI’s recent research project, African Farm Radio Research Initiative, or AFRRI. Between September 2009 and January 2010, two community radio stations in Malawi ran “one-to-one planting” participatory radio campaigns: Mudzi Whatu Community Radio and Nkhotakhota Community Radio. FRI’s Executive Director, Kevin Perkins, visited Malawi in 2010, and talked to some farmers who adopted one-to-one planting after hearing about it on the radio. You can read his story on p.2 of the fall issue of Network News at: http://www.farmradio.org/english/donors/publications/network/nn_fall_2010.pdf
The following Farm Radio International script shows how important it is to experiment with new farming methods before deciding on a permanent change. You could adapt this script to address a range of new methods.
-Comparing Crop Varieties: Start Small, Go Slowly. Package 68, Script 8, September 2003. http://farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/68-8script_en.asp
You can browse other scripts on crop production in our archive here: http://farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/crop.asp
You might want to produce a short feature about this simple technique, especially if you broadcast to a maize-growing area. Talk to NGOs or extension workers about how to improve maize yields, and ask them whether they know the “one-to-one” technique. It might have different names in different regions. Ask extension workers to explain the technique clearly in simple language and describe any drawbacks as well as potential advantages. You could also talk to farmers and ask if they have tried it, or would consider trying it. Find out the reasons behind their opinions. Arrange for farmers to call in and ask the extension worker questions about the technique, and how best to begin trying it out.