Project Everest

Field Development: unveiling our plot layout and crop selection process

Aforementioned, the aim for this month is to develop a demonstration plot indicative of the India permaculture blueprints in accordance to the domestic demand, climate and availability of resources in Fiji. Below is an outline of the demonstration plot established at Ranadi Plantation and a systematic explanation on the choice of the plot layout and crop selection which align with the permaculture practice; to achieve continuous production 365 days a year for 20+ assortments of crops and introduce an innovative and organic technique for farmers here in Fiji.

Choice of Plot Layout

Ranadi Plantation has kindly allocated 0.22 hectares of land in which the Field Development team has established a plot in accordance to the India blueprints.  Fortunately here at Ranadi plantations, an assortment of pre-existing fruit trees (lime, coconut and banana) naturally lined the perimeter of our plot of land. Not only does this act as a physical barrier, it also diversifies the production through intercropping techniques explained below.

According to the blueprints, the orientation of beds in the plots runs east to west to maximise light availability for the plants. Various trials were undertaken on the most appropriate plot layout whereby 5 beds were ultimately decided upon. [Figure 1.1] describes the intention and composition of each bed. 

[Figure 1.1] Initial bed layout 

Bed #

Intent of Bed

Composition of Bed

Control

Keep as control plot so we can see if altering/ improving the soil composition has an impact on crop health and yield.

Planting according to the India blueprints with no change of soil composition

1

Display plot to show full effect of Indian blueprints. Planting kept consistent with the control plot for comparison.

Planting according to India blueprints with altered soil comp according to blueprints

2

To prepare soil for future crops (by fixing nitrogen) and to show a comparison in future crop yields between this bed and bed 4, to see if blueprint methods affect yields and crop health

Nitrogen fixing legumes and changed soil comp according to India Blueprints

Same as bed 3.

3

To prepare soil for future crops (by fixing nitrogen) and to show a comparison in future crop yields between this bed and bed 4, to see if blueprint methods improve soil

Nitrogen fixing legumes and changed soil comp according to India Blueprints

Same as bed 2.

4

To improve soil nitrogen content to prepare for future crops. To provide a comparison of future yields of beds 2 and 3.

Nitrogen fixing legumes.

After reviewing the initial proposition of a 5 bed layout, Ranadi Plantation CEO, Jodi Smith, could immediately see the massive potential of our Fiji adaptation to the India blueprints. Jodi’s overwhelming support reiterates the significance of Field Developments project particularly her request on the inclusion of a 6th bed (with accordance to the India blueprint and in-house techniques adopted at Ranadi). This additional bed [Figure 1.2] solidifies Project Everest’s relationship with Ranadi Plantation and plays a major role in introducing advanced permaculture techniques to Fijian farmers which in turn will create a prosperous domestic market with potential for greater quality exports and produce. 

[Figure 1.2] Additional bed proposition 

Bed #

Intent of Bed

Composition of Bed

5

To compare between the control bed and bed 1 to show which soil treatment, if any, has the most desirable effect on the crops

Planting according to Indian blueprints (kept consistent with control beds and bed 1).

With accordance to the India blueprint a 12m x 12m plot has been used for greater utilisation of land. Hence, we have divided the plot to accommodate an addition proposed bed whereby the width of each bed is now 1.3m and the walkway has a width of 0.34m. It is worthy to note that the width of the walkways is inclusive of the fencing and additional area fully developed creeper crops may potentially exploit. 

Crop Selection

Our initial phase in selecting the most appropriate crops to plant in out beds was to determine the soil conditions in Fiji through various testing. In additional further research was undertaken on Fiji’s domestic market and demand of certain types of fruits and vegetables. Ultimately we had chosen an assortment of crops based on the following characteristics:

  • Demand in the local markets
  • Potential for long-term and short-term revenue
  • Competition of nutrients in soil beds
  • Attract/deter pests and insects
  • Companion planting theories
  • Harvesting periods
  • Potential yields
  • Soil composition to promote growth (e.g. pH level)

 Therefore, three beds (Control, Bed 1, Bed 5) will be planted with a combination of Group 1, 2, 4 and 5 plants in accordance to the aforementioned selection criteria and [Figure 1.4]. The groups were formed based on similar characteristics of the crops chosen. The remained of the beds contained a combination of Group 4 crops. These crops were also incorporated in the fencing of the beds as creeper crops would enable better utilizations of space as exemplified in the India blueprints. We also implemented an intercropping technique between the natural boundaries created from the existing trees whereby Group 5 crops were utilised. 

[Figure 1.4] Crop rotation and group of crops   

Group

Similarity

Examples

1

Bacterial Wilt
Attracts harmful bacteria which enhances the growth of other crops

  • Attract/deter pests and insects
  • Competition of nutrients in soil beds
  • Companion planting theories

 

2

Cabbage Moth
Attracts a small white species of butterfly

  • Attract/deter pests and insects
  • Potential for long-term and short-term revenue
  • Companion planting theories

 

3

Cucurbits
Plants that are in the gourd group

  • Demand in the local markets
  • Competition of nutrients in soil beds
  • Harvesting periods
  • Potential yields

 

4

Legumes

Also known as pulse and is rich in nutrients for livestock forage and silage, and as soil-enhancing green manure

  • Competition of nutrients in soil beds
  • Companion planting theories
  • Soil composition to promote growth (e.g. pH level)
  • Harvesting periods
  • Potential yields

 

5

Everything Else
Crops which do not fall under categories 1-4

  • Demand in the local markets
  • Potential for long-term and short-term revenue
  • Competition of nutrients in soil beds
  • Attract/deter pests and insects
  • Companion planting theories
  • Harvesting periods
  • Potential yields
  • Soil composition to promote growth (e.g. pH level)

 

 

Jimmy Bayssari Jul 22, 2017

It's going to be really interesting to see the ability of the plot to generate profit for a farmer. We are well aware of how much crop is being harvested in India as a result of implementing the above print- let's hope we see the same result in Fiji.

I am really interested to see how we go with ginger, given it takes quite a bit from the soil.

Lisa Paisley Jul 23, 2017

We can definitely make it happen in Fiji.

Re: ginger- just chuck some organic fertilisers (like blood n bone) on the plot and she'll be right.
OR pair ginger with legumes to help balance the production & uptake of nitrogen in the soil.
OR we can inoculate the soil with mycorrhizal fungi to further promote nutrient uptake - predominantly phosphorus.
In other word - plenty of options for this, we just need to explore what is available in country.

Isaac Crawford Jul 25, 2017

Hey Guys, Isaac from Malawi Agriculture Assessment. We have managed to secure a piece of land to implement an experimental farm over here in Malawi during summer, with the potential of more land being provided by the local Blantyre Agriculture Development Office (awaiting the signing of an MOU to confirm initial commitment). Our team is wondering about the estimated total costs so far in Fiji surrounding seeds, irrigation system costs, machinery hire etc. Of course there will be discrepancies between costs of resources in Malawi vs Fiji, however we are seeking to just gain a broad gage of costs.
Thank you!
Isaac

Andrew Vild Jul 26, 2017

Also interested in the outcome here, as well as projected outputs in terms of produce. The India prints estimate up to 100kgs/day. Is this realisitic?