( CSR 3
Centre for Soil Research; JI. lr H. Juanda 98: Bogor: Indonesia (0251) 23012
Contact: TROPSOILS; Box 02; Sitilng 1A; Sumatera Barat
DATE: DECEMBER 1986 NUMBER: 35
TITLE: Farmer Practice and Production Study -
Soil and Crop Management Practices in Aur Jaya
EXPERIMENT No.: 4504
RESEARCHER: Stacy Evensen
OBJECTIVES: 1. To determine farmers' practices regarding use.
of crop residue, preparation of soil and use
and application of fertilizer, and
2. To learn farmers' perceptions and beliefs re-
garding soil fertility and methods of improvement.
SITE HISTORY AND RESEARCH PLAN: See Field Research Brief No. 32
This is a summary of observations and a series of interviews
with 8 farmers in Aur Jaya. Some practices (such as use of crop
residue) and perceptions (such as the timing of fertilizer
application) were universally held by all farmers interviewed.
Other practices, such as specific rates of fertilizer
application, were sufficiently different or unclear as to warrant
a further, more extensive investigation via a farmer practice
survey. This has been implemented within 2 villages in the
Sitiung area (Sitiung ID and Sitiung VC) and will continue in one
more site. These complete results will be reported later and
will be more representative of farmer practices throughout the
Sitiung area. Reported here are the most common practices and
commonly held perceptions observed among farmers in Aur Jaya.
FARMER PRACTICES AND PERCEPTIONS
The methods of soil preparation used by farmers in Aur Jaya
seem to be quite similar, differing only in frequency and
intensity. Farmers begin their field preparation for planting by
removing existing weeds and grasses. These are scraped away at
the root level using a hoe and either tossed to one side to rot,
dried and burned or, in a few cases, allowed to dry on the soil
surface and are reincorporated into the soil as a'soil amendment.
After the soil has been cleared of weeds farmers may
broadcast fertilizer depending on their perceptions of the soil's
fertility and the time of year. Farmers often-determine soil
fertility by looking at the color of the soil "yellow" or
"red" colored soil is infertile and may warrant an application of
fertilizer. The previous yield is also an indicator of soil
fertility decreased yields may indicate decreased soil
fertility. Farmers also observe weed growth throughout their
fields sparse weed growth may indicate an infertile patch and
often farmers will give a spot application of fertilizer to these
Farmers view consistent rain as a key factor in increasing
the availability of fertilizer. All farmers interviewed during
the end of the dry season reported that, although they had
already planted their crop, they would wait until the rains came
before adding fertilizer. Farmers feel that the rains are
necessary to "bring down" the fertilizer so it is available to
the roots. Without the rain, farmers said the fertilizer would
just be "evaporated" from the surface by the sun. The most
commonly used fertilizers are TSP snd urea, usually mixed and
applied together. Lime is usually applied in larger quantities
every 1 2 years and broadcast sparingly at other times.
Another reason mentioned for adding fertilizer after
planting rather than before is that, if given after crops are
well established (after 4 6 weeks), their roots will be large
enough to absorb and utilize the nutrients from the fertilizer.
Before that time roots are too small to take advantage of the
fertilizer application and fertilizer given at that time would be
wasted. These perceptions may indicate that farmers feel
fertilizers have only a short term benefit and that, due to the
limited access to inputs in Aur Jaya, wise farmers are those who
can maximize fertilization by effective timing of application.
This is borne out by the observed high frequency (although not
necessarily high rate) of fertilizer use among these farmers.
Fertilizer is given at least once during each planting cycle -
either before hoeing or after sprouting to be incorporated into
the soil during weeding and sometimes more often if, for
instance, a farmer feels the crop is lacking in a specific
nutrient as suggested by crop growth or leaf color.
If fertilizer is applied after the field is cleared of weeds
it is generally incorporated into the soil during hoeing. There
are no cows or plows in Aur Jaya so hoeing is the only method of
-soil cultivation used there. The depth of hoeing varies among
farmers, averaging 15 cm deep, with a range of between 10 30 cm.
A few farmers said they hoed two times describing a process that
resembles "double digging". This involves hoeing once to hoe-
depth pulling back the soil. This same spot is then hoed a
second time enabling the farmer to reach much further down and,
if adding fertilizer at this time, to incorporate it at a much
deeper level. Since this is a very labor-intensive method of
soil cultivation, and labor is a major constraint for these
farmers, it must be assumed that farmers who practice deep
digging are really quite rare.
Crop residues, other organic matter such as ash, compost and
leaf matter are also incorporated into the soil during hoeing.
All farmers use their crop residue in some way. Soybean and
peanut residue is usually allowed to rot on the soil surface and
is incorporated into the soil during hoeing. Sometimes the
soybean residue will be burned first and the ash incorporated
instead. Corn and rice residue are too dense to be buried easily
and are generally burned first. Some farmers bring home residues
from their upland fields and compost this with other material
such as kitchen waste (again, because there are as yet no cows or
goats in Aur Jaya, animal waste is not used in the making of
compost). Generally this entails piling crop residue, leaf
litter and kitchen waste into a hole. This mixture is allowed to
rot and is infrequently turned if at all. While most farmers
recognize the benefits of compost, many view it as too labor-
intensive. It is the rare farmer who will haul crop residue to
the home, make compost and haul it back to the family upland
field. If compost is made at the home it is generally used in the
Along with this keen interest in crop residue, farmers also
expressed an interest in green manure-producing trees (as opposed
to a cover crop that might take the place of a food crop) for use
as a soil amendment to increase soil fertility and soil moisture
holding capacity. Some farmers have a few scattered trees (such
as Leucaena spp., Calliandra calothyrsus and Sesbania
grandiflora) planted in their home gardens which they say can be
used as green manure. No trees were observed in the farmers'
upland fields. However, whenever the subject of using alternate
sources of nutrients was broached, farmers reported their
experience in Java with various green manure trees and said they
would try these in Aur Jaya if seed was available. This interest
in GM trees has been followed up by TROPSOILS. Currently
underway is an-alley-cropping experiment (farmer-managed) using
Calliandra calothyrsus and Albizia falcataria in farmers' upland
After the soil has been cleared of weeds, the desired soil
amendments added and the field hoed, plots are formed. Most of
the upland fields in Aur Jaya are sloping, some steeply.
Farmers, therefore, fashion large terraced plots with drainage
canals on these sloping fields to accommodate rain run-off and
prevent erosion. A few farmers, in anticipation of the
government promise to provide them with cows, have planted forage
grasses along the contours of their sloping fields.
Farmers rarely plant just one crop in their field or home
garden during any given planting season. Usually a variety of
between 2 and 4 crops such as soybean, peanut, cassava, corn and
rice (in the wet season) will be planted. These will be arranged
in a checkerboard fashion within their field with corn and
cassava always planted along contours or terraces at a spacing of
between 50 100 cm between plants and 2 5 m between rows.
The timing of planting is seen by farmers as critical and
they are very much in tune with what their immediate neighbors
are planting. Farmers feel that if they lag too far behind their
neighbors in planting soybean and rice especially they will
likely have problems with disease and insect damage. The
planting of peanuts seems to be less time-dependent although, in
order to capture a better market price, farmers try to be among
the first to plant this crop if possible.
The common way to plant crops is to use a dibble stick to
make evenly spaced holes (20 25 cm apart) into which seeds are
planted. The rate of seeds per hole varies depending on the
crop, and the quality and quantity of seed available. Generally,
2 3 soybeans per hole, 1 2 peanut seeds, 2 3 corn seed and
between 4 10 rice seed are planted per hole. If the seed is-
small and/or of poor quality more seeds will be used. Sometimes
farmers will add fertilizer (usually TSP) to the seed container
so that it is mixed together with the seed and added during
planting. This has been observed during rice and corn planting.
Once seeds are planted farmers will often cover the seeds
with a small amount of soil by hand or by "sweeping" the newly
planted area with a cassava branch causing soil to fall into the
hole. The prevalence of free-roaming chickens in the area -
especially around the home garden makes this practice
necessary. The only instance observed where seeds were not
covered immediately by soil occurred during rice planting in the
upland field. If the farmer thought rain would fall shortly the
holes were left uncovered to be filled in later by the rain.
Approximately 4 6 weeks after planting (or longer
depending on the availability of labor) these newly planted
fields are weeded. This is done with a small hoe known as a
koret (Javanese term). Fertilizer is often broadcast at this
time and is-incorporated into the soil as the koret scrapes the
weeds from the surface.
rrsect damage is a major agricultural problem for farmers in
Aur Jaya. As a result, the frequency of insecticide use is high.
Farmers use a large variety of insecticides (Azodrine, Diazinon,
Nuvacron, Sevin and Furadan to name a few) at varying rates. See
Appendix I for the chemical names of these compounds. Soybeans
are usually sprayed 3 5 times during the crop cycle. Peanut
and rice are sprayed 2 3 times and corn is rarely sprayed.
Because insecticide is costly, the farmer will not generally
follow the recommended application schedule but rather observe
the status of the crop and will only apply insecticide if insect
damage looks bad. This, of course, means that any preventive
benefits of regular insecticide application will not be realized.
The dose used may also be less than recommended in order to
conserve insecticide for the next crop. Most farmers reported
mixing a combination of 2 or 3 insecticides when spraying as
this is thought to make a stronger insecticide.
As a crop approaches maturity, farmers take special care to
guard against loss through mice, pigs and birds. A rat poison,
klerat, is used to control loss to mice and is fairly effective
but not always affordable to the farmer. To control for bird
damage the farmer will have members of the family take turns
rattling cans in the field or shouting to ward off hungry birds
from maturing rice. Birds, especially chickens, may also peck at
and eat maturing soybeans. Farmers guard their maturing peanut
and corn crops from pigs by stationing family members in the
fields overnight with lamps. If dogs are available they are also
used. This is tiring and very intensive but can effectively
protect a crop. Other methods of pig control have been tried
with little success. These include poisoning with Temik
(aldicarb), building deep traps covered with branches along a
pig's known path and building fences from timber available in the
When a crop is ready for harvest, the whole family gathers
to assist. Soybeans are cut at their base and gathered into
piles to be transported the 1 2 km home for processing. The
leaves and stalk that remain after the grain is removed are
either used in the home garden or returned to the upland field to
rot on the field and be incorporated later. Peanuts, however,
are generally pulled up, the peanuts removed in the field and the
peanut residue left to rot on the soil surface. The peanuts are
transported home by the sackfuls for processing. Corn is
similarly cut down and the ripe ears removed in the field. Only
the ears are brought home for processing. Rice is harvested and
the grain removed in the field. The final cleaning and drying
occurs at home.
WHO DOES WHAT
Agricultural production in Aur Jaya requires a tremendous
amount of time and labor. It is not surprising, therefore, that
the entire farm family is involved. While exceptions exist,
generally activities are performed as follows:
HoeinR, terrace building performed by the male family members
primarily. In times of labor or time shortage, female family
members will be called on to help.
.Fertilizer application an activity almost exclusively performed
by the male.
Planting all members of the family, including older children,
assist in this activity.
Insecticide aellication an activity performed by males;
children and women may assist in hauling water to the field site.
Weeding primarily performed by females in the family.
Harvesting all family members are called on to assist with
harvesting and transporting crops home.
Food pRocessing this is exclusively a female activity sometimes
involving older children.
SellinJ of produce both men and women are involved in selling
produce; women manage the village-level selling whereas men will
assist in bringing produce to the market for sale.
These designations seem to be activity-specific rather than
location-specific. In other words, whether food processing
occurs in the upland field or the home garden, women play the
major role. Similarly, while women primarily manage the home
garden, if spraying of insecticide is done it is usually done by
a male family member.
The observed farmer practices and perceptions mentioned here
apply to one village and, therefore, cannot at this point be
considered representative of practices adhered to throughout
Sitiung. However, since farmers tend to consult one another
regarding the best practices and perform certain activities
similarly, these soil and crop management practices may represent
a good general picture of farming activities in the Sitiung area.
In order to validate this statement, an extensive farmer practice
survey is currently being administered to 3 villages in Sitiung.
From this it is hoped that TROPSOILS can gain a clearer picture
of specific farmer practices and how new research and technology
development might be better tailored to the farmers' current
Appendix I. Chemical Names for Common Insecticides in Sitiun_
Azodrine 15 Monocrotophos 150g/1
Bassa 50 EC BPMC 500g/1
Baycarb 500 EC BPMC 503g/1
Diazinon 60 EC Diazinon 600g/1
Hopcin 50 EC BPMC 460g/1
Nuvacron 20 SCW Monocrotophos 200g/1
Sevin 85 S Carbaryl 85%-.
Source: Wonositi market, Sitiung I Blok A, January 1987.