No tillage farming, an alternative to GMO

One of the compelling forces necessitating the call for the introduction of the genetically modified organism (GMOs) and the passage of the Plant Breeders’ Bill (PBB) in the country is improvements in yields of crops on the farm and food security.

So while the controversy rages on, various options are being looked at, as alternatives for the production of sufficient food to feed the nation and even export beyond its borders.

In the midst of that, one man has proven beyond doubt that a bountiful harvest from the farm can be attained through a simple, cost-effective method of farming.

No -Till Agriculture
Dubbed, No-Tillage farming, Dr Kofi Boa popularly called Okuani Dr Kofi Boa, the brainchild of the Centre for No-Till Agriculture, has shown that when the farmer adopts this method of farming, not only will bumper harvests be assured, but also minimal expenditure before harvest, would be guaranteed.

The practice, which deals with minimal tillage of the soil, makes use of cover crop, which is cut down to serve as a soil cover.

Sowing is done on the mulch-covered field, using a machete or dibbling stick for the peasant/small- scale farmer or crimping and planting with the tractor- mounted roller crimper and no-till planter for the large-scale farmers.

The good thing is that Okuani Boa is not keeping his new technology to himself; he is sharing his knowledge with those who care to learn about how to improve the soil to improve their harvest without having to invest so much in buying fertiliser and hiring labourers to do extensive weeding. 

Indeed, the no-till technology is not only cost-saving, it allows the farmer the luxury of time to engage in other businesses for more income, because once the crops are sown; the farmer does not need to worry with weeding, as the soil cover suppresses all other weeds, especially in the early stages when planted crops are least competitive with weeds.

Demonstration farm
Currently, Okuani Boa has demonstration farms at Amanchia in the Atwima Nwabiagya District in the Ashanti Region, a simple and humble community, which he uses to teach willing farmers who turn up to learn the new technology. With a 20-bed dormitory facility at Amanchia to house farmers on training, Kofi makes the visit to the farm easier by putting at the disposal of the trainees, a 15-seater bus that conveys them from the dormitory to the farm and back.

Recently, the executive members of the Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana took their turn to familiarise themselves with the new technology and after the lectures and the field trips to the demonstration farm, the farmers were impressed. 

Impression of peasant farmers
They were not impressed because they saw the bumper harvest awaiting Kofi, but  because they had tumbled over a weapon to use as an alternative in dialogues with the proponents of GMOs and champions of the passage of the PBB as the only means of ensuring food security in the country.

As the President of the PFAG, Alhaji Abdul-Rahman told the Daily Graphic at the demonstration farm, "all that while, we have been kicking against GMOs and the PBB without giving any alternative suggestion. Now here we see an alternative to GMOs and the PBB for enhanced food production by all categories of farmers”. 

He said the demonstration farm really testified that farmers could get bumper harvest to feed the nation and even with surplus to export.

"I was highly impressed with the simple farming method with no application of fertiliser, yet bumper harvests are guaranteed." He added that, "We are going back to our members to spread the good news."

With the motto, "Building healthy soil for healthy plants for healthy people," Dr. Boa, a former employee of the Crops Research Institute of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) believes that whether locally bred open pollinated varieties or hybrids, GMOs or PBB, the critical thing is that the soil condition must be right and with the right soil, the expected yield is guaranteed.

Centre for No-Till Agriculture
Okuani Boa had nothing against GMOs, but indicated that if the promotion of GMOs and the passage of the PBB would mean no farmer could plant any other variety of a particular crop apart from the Genetically Modified variety, he would not go for it. In his words, "If going for GMO will require that we cannot plant our indigenous seeds, I will not go for it".

He explained that the core businesses of the centre were conservation agriculture, where research, extension service and training; production and distribution of cover crop seeds and establishment of Conservation Agriculture plots were the focus.

Conservation Agriculture
Okuani Boa said the increasing human population with the resultant increasing pressure on arable land necessitated the research for appropriate technological options that could sustain the productivity of any given piece of land. 

Conservation Agriculture (CA) has proven to be one such option. CA refers to all agricultural crop production systems which involve the simultaneous application of and adherence to three fundamental principles, which he mentioned as minimal disturbance to the soil (no soil invasion), maximum soil cover and multi-cropping.

On CA, he said it was a knowledge-based technology and that different benefits might be noticed over several phases. He noted, “This will require engagement with farmers over a period during which time they learn and begin to appreciate the benefits of the technology – thus the creation of the Center for No-Till Agriculture”.


By: Severious Kale Dery 

Date: Thursday, 05 February 2015