Cultivating Subtropical Crops: Coffee

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Developing Agriculture with Animal Traction

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By goGreen | April 5, 2014

Good milk production and numbers of calves per unit time are only obtained by achieving early conception in heifers and

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a short inter-calving interval in adult cows. Factors affecting fertility in dairy cows are numerous (Table 1)

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Plans for a Complete Beekeeping System

By goGreen | April 5, 2014


Use any can with a tight fitting lid. (canisters from a hardware store. make good smokers.) Solder a section of 3/4″ tubing, 24″ long through the lid at a 45 degree angle, (not critical) and a section of tube about the

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Steps Toward Improving Small-Scale Agriculture

By goGreen | April 5, 2014

As with many good things in life, improvement of small-scale agriculture is not easy. Since every region (and indeed every farm) is distinctive, there are no automatic solutions to the improvement of agriculture. Nevertheless, from the experience

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many persons, a few principles can be instilled as follows:

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Literature. Agriculture requires information. Follow this document with other publications that teach principles. Be sure to obtain a subscription to ECHO Development Notes (free for those who work overseas with small farmers) and your own copy of this book, plus back issues after EDN 51. Enrich your library with publications of the country or region in which you will serve. Be cautious with information developed for other regions or countries with different soils, climates, and social-economic conditions. Do not believe that miracle solutions can be found or that any publication will solve your problems. Information is like a set of tools to be used judiciously.

Diagnosis. The first step in improving rural agriculture is to ask the right questions so as to arrive at a diagnosis. These may include the following, and others: What land is available, and what are its limitations? What crops are grown, during what seasons, with what techniques, and with what results? How are the crops harvested, stored, transported, and used? What crop residues remain, and what is done with them? What animals are produced on the farm, using what techniques? What is done with the animals and their by-products? What do people eat? How is food prepared and stored? What parts of the diet are inadequate? How does this change with time of year? How does animal production interact with human welfare? What do people buy, trade or share? Where do they get the money? What markets exist for new products? What purchased inputs are available (tools, mineral fertilizers, fungicides, etc.)? What is the health of the people? What are the social and economic factors influencing distribution and marketing? What is the infant mortality rate and the life expectancy? Does the diet appear balanced? From what diseases do people suffer? As answers are compiled, you will form an impression of the fundamental problems in the community. In addition to general problems faced by everyone, there will be idiosyncratic problems belonging to specific families or persons. Some decisions will need to be made about the most important problems to be attacked as well as their root causes. The fundamental problems may not be agricultural.

Selection of Alternatives. From this point, the discussion will concern only agriculture, the theme of this article. While other problems are too numerous and complex to be discussed here, they merit equal or perhaps greater concern.

From the diagnosis of the agricultural situation, plan several alternatives. The closer the alternatives are to current practices, the more likely they will succeed. Select rational alternatives, based on knowledge and previous experience if possible. They may have experimental aspects (in the sense that one can never be sure of the results). By organizing alternatives that address real problems as the people perceive them, chances for success are enhanced. Some of the alternatives may be…

A new crop, a new variety

An improved system of soil preparation

A different season of planting

A changed physical arrangement of the plants

A better way of fertilizing

A better nursery (if the crops are transplanted)

A new way to control weeds or pests

Improved harvest or storage

Better ways of food preparation

New uses of crop residues

Similarly, additional alternatives may be sought for the animal component of the farm.

Testing Alternatives. Try selected alternatives first in plantings completely managed by the innovator. These plantings could be in schools, churches, backyard gardens or rented fields. Test alternatives alongside plantings which use the farmers' technology. As soon as possible, involve farmers in testing alternatives alongside their own plantings. The

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same principles are applicable if the alternatives include storage or cooking techniques or any other aspect of production and use of food. Trials should be made for comparisons before new technology is introduced to farmers or cooks. If the alternatives require new markets or marketing techniques, these should also be worked out before the alternatives are presented to farmers.

In normal practice, a foreign innovator is closely watched. It is a serious error to introduce a technology that is not a significant improvement. (However, you should expect some disappointing results along with successes on your personal trial plots!) On the other hand, successful aspects of a technology (successful alternatives) will be watched and tried by others.

Verification in Farmers' Situations. Even when new alternatives have been demonstrated to be successful they must be verified in the hands of the farmers. Farmers will put them into use in their own way and will find strengths and weaknesses not obvious to the innovators. These verification trials allow farmers to adapt and adopt innovations useful for them. A grassroots approach is the most useful in the spreading of innovations; but as acceptance becomes generalized, new doors may be opened for more formal training in agriculture, food processing, nutrition, and hygiene.

Relating to Local People. While learning about a new culture it is not necessary and may, in fact, be undesirable to practice wholehearted local rural ways. You may wish to dress, eat, and balance the diet, practice hygiene, and comfort yourself in your own way. But, private and personal practices which are so important to you may not be appropriate for the people around you. The virtues of tolerance, understanding, and appreciation ought to be your guidelines at every step of the way. You will undoubtedly find that those you work with are loveable and will love you.

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Cold Storage of Fruits and Vegetables

By goGreen | July 31, 2012

Deterioration of fruits and vegetables during storage depends largely on temperature. One way to slow down this change and so increase the length of time fruits and vegetables can be stored, is by lowering the temperature to an appropriate level. It must be remembered that if the temperature is too low the produce will be damaged and also that as s

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oon as the produce leaves the cold store, deterioration starts again and often at a faster rate.

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It is essential that fruits and vegetables are not damaged during harvest and that they are kept clean. Damaged and bruised produce have much shorter storage lives and very poor appearance after storage. Dirty produce can introduce pests and moulds into the store. The produce should be harvested carefully using a sharp stainless steel knife. The fruits and vegetables should not be placed on the ground where they could pick up dirt. Either a clean harvesting basket or clean mats should be used. It is essential that the fruits and vegetables are harvested at the correct harvesting time.

It is important that the produce does not get dirty or damaged during handling. Careful handling should be the rule. The best option is for the produce to be prepared for storage in the field and placed carefully in the storage containers used in the cold store. This considerably reduces the amount of handling and will keep damage to a minimum. It is essential that the produce is handled and placed in the store as quickly as possible as delays between harvesting and cooling can substantially reduce storage life.

If the produce is dirty it should be cleaned before storage. The water used has to be kept clean or fungus spores will be spread throughout the produce. Some fruit and vegetables need their outer leaves removed before storage. However, usually it is better to leave the leaves on during storage to reduce moisture loss, and then remove them before sale.

Preliminary cooling (Precooling)
Dipping the produce in cool water to remove field heat can reduce the energy requirements of the store. However, this can spread fungus spores throughout the produce. A suitable alternative is to pick the produce either early in the morning when it is cool or late in the evening and leave it overnight to cool down.

Storage conditions
All fruits and vegetables have a 'critical temperature' below which undesirable and irreversible reactions or 'chill damage' takes place. Carrots for example blacken and become soft, and the cell structure of potatoes is destroyed. The storage temperature always has to be above this critical temperature. One has to be careful that even though the thermostat is set at a temperature above the critical temperature, the thermostatic oscillation in temperature does

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not result in storage temperature falling below the critical temperature. Even 0.5C below the critical temperature can result in chill damage. Table 1 gives the critical temperatures for various fruits and vegetables.

It can be seen from the table that there are basically three groups of fruit and vegetables: those stored at 0 – 4C; those stored at 4-8C and those that require a storage temperature above 8C. It is often more convenient to concentrate on one of these groups.
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Understanding Aquaculture- Part 2

By goGreen | July 29, 2012

Cultural Methods

Fish can be grown in open ponds

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or in cages in ponds. Shellfish, on the other hand, often do better in what is called suspensionculture. These three methods are described below.

Types of Pond Culture

There are four general types of pond fish cultures: mixed age groups, temporary age group mixing, separated age groups, and controlled reproduction.

The Mixed Age Groups Method. This method produces all sizes of fish in great quantity. The level of production is maintained by catching some fish while the fish are growing. This may be done with a hook and line or a limited number of traps. At the end of the growth period, the pond is drained and all fish are harvested. Some are selected for restocking the pond when it is refilled. This method provides a high production rate if the fish are well-fed. Fish from a different source should be put if the pond periodically to improve the fish quality.

The Temporary Age Group Mixing. This culture produces a large portion of equal-sized fish. The pond in stocked with young fish of approximately the same size, which are fed and allowed to grow and reproduce once. When the largest of the fish spawned in the pond are large enough to use for restocking, the pond is drained and the fish harvested. All adults are sold or used for food; the smaller fish are used for restocking. In this method, the weight per fish is usually small. A mixed size fishery usually evolves from temporary size mixing.

Separated Age Groups Method. In this method, two ponds and heavy feeding are used to produce table or market-size fish as rapidly as possible. Adults of a single species are introduced into a reproduction pond. When the young spawned in the reproduction pond are large enough to survive in a larger growing pond, they are transferred to the larger pond.

The “Natural” Predation Method. This method attempts to balance the fish's growth and reproduction through the introduction of a predator. The results of this method are uncertain, since over-predation will reduce or even eliminate the population, leading to too many fish that are too small (dwarfing).

Controlled Reproduction Methods. These methods control the sizes and numbers of fish in the growth ponds by controlling reproduction within a laboratory. Fish stock in the ponds do not reproduce because conditions in the pond are not favorable for the species used or because something is done in the laboratory to prevent fertility. One method that has been used with some success if separation of fish by sex. Males and females are simply placed in separate ponds. However, this is a very difficult method to use, because a small number of males in the female pond (or vice-versa) will cause reproduction in the female pond (and in the male pond to a lesser extent).

Other methods include production of sterile hybrids, operating on fish to sexually denature them; or treating the fish to reduce fertility.

Construction and Operation of Fish Ponds

Once pond cultivation has been decided on, the technical considerations must be addressed. A suitable location with an adequate water supply must be chosen. The soil must be able to contain the water in the pond. The water quality must be adequate for the species, and the quantity must fill the pond in less than one month and replace losses due to seepage and evaporation.

Water Supply. There are several sources of water for pond culture, including rainfall, surface water, springs, and wells. Surface water often contains unwanted fish, pollution, parasites, and disease, and is the least desirable water source. It is often necessary to aerate to remove undesirable gazes and raise the oxygen level. Springs may also contain unwanted fish and can dry up at the time water is most needed. Rainfall may be even more undependable and low in nutrients. But it will generally be free of pollutants and high in oxygen.

Well water in usually the highest quality (especially when it comes from covered wells). It does not contain unwanted fish or suspended material, and is protected from flood water. But it also may need aeration to remove undesirable gases and raise the oxygen level. If the well's water source is of uncertain quantity or quality, test wells should be constructed first.

The minimum pond water depth depends on the air temperature, seepage rates, and the dependability of the water supply. In an area dependent on seasonal rains, the water should be at least 3m(10 feet) deep over at least 25 percent of the pond. In warm areas with low seepage or sufficient water supply, the minimum depth may be as little as 1m (3 feet). If the pond will be ice covered for one month or more, the pond will have to be at least 6m (20 feet) depth to prevent winter-kill.

Woods may grow in shallow water. Since this may be beneficial,

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removal will depend on whether the benefits outweigh the problems associated with the additional use of nutrients, loss of pond volume, and potential oxygen use when the plants decay. Shallow areas with weeds are favorite brooding areas for mosquitoes. It is recommended that the pond be not less than 12 (3 feet) deep to minimize weed and mosquito growth, or herbivorous fish, such as grass carp, should be among the species stacked in the pond.

Topics: Aquaculture | Comments Off

Understanding Aquaculture- Part 1 of 2

By goGreen | July 29, 2012

Aquaculture is the production of protein-rich foods through the controlled cultivation and harvest of aquatic plants and animals. Using inexpensive equipment and simple techniques, aquaculture can supply more protein than normally produced through conventional agriculture such as dairy, poultry, and cattle farming; and traditional fishing.

Aquaculture is not new. More than 2,500 years ago the sticky eggs of some fish were collected on mats and bundles of reeds or wood attached to posts in streams. Oyster and clam eggs were also collected and transferred to other waters to hatch. This was the first form of aquaculture.

In the 11th and 12th centuries, pond culture developed. Carp were moved through a series of ponds where they reared young fish and grew to harvest size. Later, other fish were cultured in a similar manner. Today, several types of fish and shellfish are grown in high density aquaculture operations throughout the world.

The techniques of animal husbandry improve the chances of survival of the plants and animals being raised and speed up their growth so that the food yield is quick and large. Almost any type of aquatic organism can be raised from its youth to a healthy, marketable adult. However, this paper in restricted to fish and shellfish culture. The reader is presented with only general considerations and approaches to aquaculture, since it requires specialization to address each possible cultural species.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Aquaculture

Systematic aquaculture operations have a number of advantages over fishing for the production of protein foods. Some of these are:

Aquaculture operations do have drawbacks, however. These include:

Types of Aquaculture

There are five major types of aquaculture:

1. Transplantation: The movement of a species to a suitable location. This method in also used to introduce species into new environments.

2. Hatchery and Stocking: The spawning, hatching, and rearing of a cultural species that will be transplanted to suitable or desirable areas. This method is used to supplement or replace the natural stock, or for transplantation.

3. Enbayment Culture: The use of enclosures, such as ponds, cages, baskets, and strings, for aqua culture in natural waters.

4. Ponds with Supplemental Feed and Fertilizer: Aquaculture in natural or artificial ponds with food and fertilizer provided to maintain algae and species at desirable levels. In some systems, animal manures are used to provide fertilizer and some food.

5. Ponds without Supplemental Feed and Fertilizer: Aquaculture in natural or artificial ponds with the cultured species subsisting an natural available food in the pond water. This requires a high rate of exchange of water for high growth rates.

As can be seen, the basic theory of aquaculture is to obtain small animals and provide them with an environment that allows for their rapid, healthy growth. A desirable-sized fish can be harvested in a short period of time.

Cultivation Requirements

The most commonly cultivated species of fish

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are carp and tilapia. Shellfish such as oysters and mussels, which are low on the food chain, are also farmed extensively. While culture techniques must be adapted to the needs of specific species and to local needs and conditions, some general rules apply:

1. The species must be Suitable for cultivation under the proposed conditions.
2. The program must develop the best method of cultivating the identified species from physiological, geographical, and market points of view.
3. Adequate support must be available. This includes changing and aerating the water, feeding the fish, maintaining equipment, marketing, and so on. Experimentationis often necessary to improve yields substantially.
4. Predators must be controlled.
5. Cannibalism must be controlled.
6. The species life cycle must be understood, and good, inexpensive feed must be available.

A dense population of animals demands abundant food and oxygen and a means of removing metabolic wastes. There is a limit to the size of the biological community that can be supported before growth is limited by competition for food, oxygen, and space. The high density of cultured animals makes them susceptible to disease and predation. To prevent juveniles from being attacked by these diseases, drained ponds must be thoroughly dried to destroy parasites and disease-causing organisms. The water and stocking animals should be free of parasites and disease-causing organisms. Feed and feed supplements should not introduce parasites or disease-causing organisms.

On the positive side, the fertile fish and shellfish wastes can be used in the production of leaf crops requiring nitrogen. Shellfish wastes are best used on fruit trees.

Aquaculture systems can be operated and maintained in three ways:

1. Communal: This is subsistence cultivation that is some times publicly funded. The conditions are often mediocre,and production is poor because duties are attended randomly.
2. Family: This can range from subsistence cultivation to a very sophisticated operation, depending on the skill and energy of the owners. Under the worst of conditions, it can be more variable than communal; at its best, it can exceed the standards of a dedicated system. The key to a successful operation is the family's commitment to putting forth the effort necessary to produce a quality product.
3. Dedicated: This operation is designed to produce food for market, and is usually well-regulated with high yields.

Each of these types of operation can be run as extensive or intensive culture.
Extensive Culture provides little or no control over the environment. Placing shellfish on a site and allowing them to grow on their own, or trapping fish and invertebrates in special enclosures and holding them until they reach market size, are examples of extensive culture. In extensive culture, the fish depend uponthe natural food supply in the water. Only 20 to 50 percent of the stocked animals survive in this uncontrolled environment.
Intensive Culture on the other hand provides full control, over the environment. An indoor culture of shellfish, in which temperature, salinity (salt/water ratio), flow rate, feed type, amount of feed, and light are fully controlled, is an example of intensive culture.

No matter which type of operation or which method of culture is selected, sufficient food and oxygen must be provided. Oxygen levels of 4 to 5 milligrams per liter (parts per million) are satisfactory. Water can be aerated by spraying it out at least 0.6m (2 feet) in droplet form. Food requirements are discussed in a later section.

There is one other general consideration in aquaculture that is extremely important: The size of the animals. The animals stocked in the aquaculture system must be large enough to grow to market size in the desired time. Some preliminary experimentation is needed to determine the minimum desirable size. Only healthy animals should be chosen for stocking the aquaculture system.
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All About Potatoes

By goGreen | July 28, 2012

The common potato (Solanum tuberosum, Solanaceae) is a member of another large and important plant family, Solanaceae, which includes, among many others, eggplant and tomato. Th

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e genus Solanum includes more than 2,000 species.

The potato was first seen by Europeans in 1537 when the Spanish landed in what is now called Colombia, and was brought back to Europe by 1570. It was cultivated throughout the continent before 1600, and in Ireland by 1663. The cultivated potato is said to have been first introduced into North America in 1621.

Potatoes are the leading starchy root crop of the subtropical countries, and one of the eight leading staple food crops of the world. Annual production of potatoes is approximately twice that of all other edible root crops combined. However, because of its limited climatic adaptability, less than 10 percent of production occurs in developing countries. The International Potato Center (CIP) in Peru is developing new varieties of this nutritious root crop, which perform well under a variety of soil and climatic conditions.

Among the root crops, the potato is known for its high protein content. It is almost equal to rice on a dry weight basis, and with a protein quality approaching that of beef. With its high yields and short maturation periods, the potato outranks all major world food crops in protein production per unit of time. The food value of the potato varies depending on the variety, growth, environmental conditions, storage, and handling. Its composition consists of 70 to 80 percent water, 8 to 28 percent starch, and 1 to 4 percent protein. It also contains vitamins such as riboflavin, ascorbic acid, and trace elements. It is an important source of high-quality nutrients for people in the tropical highlands. The potato has been a continuous object of research and investigation all over the world, with special focus of interest in the International Potato Center (CIP) in Peru. The Center is attempting to increase the tolerance of the crop to high temperatures, and once it is accomplished, then it is likely that larger areas of West Africa will be open to cultivation.


Potatoes are grown as a single crop or in combination with sorghum, millet, maize, cowpeas, groundnuts, sweet potatoes, and other vegetables. Propagation is done by tuber, either whole or cut. Whole tubers are less liable to rot in the soil. Planting material should be free from diseases, pests, and damage. Certified potato “seeds,” free from virus, should be used when possible. Potatoes may be planted by hand or mechanically, and the crop is usually planted on ridges at a depth of 5 to 15 centimeters.

Most potato varieties have very specific temperature requirements, thereby limiting the adaptability of this crop in tropical regions. Tuber formation is retarded when the soil temperature rises above 20 [degrees] C; above 29 [degrees] C, little if any, tuberization takes place. Although young potato plants are very susceptible to hard frosts, most varieties will tolerate light frosts.

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Potatoes require a continuous supply of moisture. Evenly distributed rainfall is considered essential, and drought, even for short periods, can have serious effects on yields and quality of the crops. Well-drained peat soils are particularly suited; however, potatoes could grow on most soils if drainage is adequate. A deep, well-drained loam, or sandy loam, with a pH of 5 to 5.6 is considered to be the best. Potatoes respond well to manures and chemical fertilizers, and good yields can be obtained only with adequate fertility. Fertilizer requirements vary greatly depending on the variety and growing conditions.

Potatoes do not compete well with weeds, and timely, efficient weeding, by pulling or tillage, is essential. In temperate zones, the crop is often repeatedly hoed, up to five times during the growing season. Normally, the crop is ready for harvest in three to four months. Harvesting should be done on a dry day, when the tubers are mature. The crop can be harvested by hand or mechanically. If it is harvested mechanically, a wide range of equipment can be used, including diggers, spinners, and ploughs. Harvested tubers should be stored temporarily in a shaded, dry, and well-ventilated place for 7 to 10 days to allow the skins to harden before the potatoes are prepared for market or storage. Potato yields vary with variety, length of growing season, climate, and the type of soil. With efficient farming methods in temperate climates, yields well in excess of 25 metric tons per hectare are quite common. Yields are lower in the tropics, averaging about 14 to 15 metric tons per hectare.


Potatoes can be eaten boiled, roasted, baked, fried, or mashed. They can be made into fried chips or crisps, dehydrated and flaked, or made into flour. Potatoes can be pulped and fermented to produce alcohol. Potato tubers make an excellent livestock feed and can be fed fresh or dried and used in the form of a meal.

Diseases and Pests

Potato crops are subject to a number of diseases, some of which are of great economic importance in both developed and developing countries. Brown rot, or bacterial wilt, is the most serious potato disease in West Africa. The disease is carried by seed tubers. Other bacterial diseases include soft rot, ring rot, and late blight. Several other diseases are also of considerable importance. Among these are virus diseases that can cause crop losses. Virus-free planting stock is essential since there are no effective treatments for these diseases. Finally, a number of pests, particulary aphids and nematodes, have been found to cause economic losses. These pests not only harm the crop, but also spread virus diseases such as leaf roll and mosaic.

Source: Understanding the Production of the Major Tropical/ Sub-Tropical Root Crops
By Dr. Nail H. Ozerol

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Topics: Crops & Vegetables, Miscellaneous | Comments Off

Growing Mushrooms Under Natural Conditions

By goGreen | July 28, 2012

The Mushroom Bed Foundation The foundation for bedding material can be soil, concrete, or a wooden bench. A soil foundation is made by raising the soil i

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n the same manner used to build a garden plot to a height of about 12 cm above ground level. It is surrounded by a canal 30 cm wide and 15 cm deep. The earth excavated from the canal is used to elevate the foundation The width of the foundation should be 45 cm, and the length 1 m or more. Sandy soil will not make a strong enough foundation, but this can be remedied by cementing the sides or by constructing a wooden bench 30 cm high with the rest of the dimensions the same.

Rice Straw as Bedding Material

Thoroughly dried, long rice straw is preferable. Properly prepared straw produces a better yield of mushrooms compared to the yield when care is not taken to provide a strong base.

The straws are bundled to a size of about 8 cm in diameter, tied at the middle with abaca twine or any good substitute, cut to a uniform length of 45 cm and soaked in water for three hours. The soaked straw bundles are laid crosswise side by side on

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top of the bed foundation until the whole length of it is covered. All the butt ends are placed on one side in a layer, alternating between layers. If the butt ends of the first layer are on the left side, the butt ends of the second layer must be on the right side. This manner of arrangement is continued until four to six layers are made. About 240 bundles are needed for a six-layer, 4-metre-long bed. Each layer must be pressed firmly to make the surface level, and should be watered.

Simultaneously with the bed preparation, several crumpled newspapers are soaked in a container with 3 9 of urea per gallon of water. This “fertilized” paper is planted along with the mushroom spawn or seed. The mushroom spawn and soaked paper are first distributed on top of the layer in thumb-sized pieces. The plantings are 5 – 8 cm from the edge of the straw and 5 cm apart. For every six-layer bed 4 m long, three bottles (16 fl. oz.) of spawn are used. One-half bottle of spawn is apportioned to plant one layer. The spawn is buried with the paper 4 cm deep in the layer. The same procedure is repeated on the remaining layers. Any left-over straw is mounded on top to a thickness of about 10 cm at the centre.

The straw bed is protected by an elevated, transparent plastic sheet immediately after the planting. The cover is attached to a bamboo frame to prevent the moisture that accumulates on the plastic from spilling onto the straw.

During the dry season, a four-layer bed is recommended because of lower relatively humidity. Beds of six or more layers are possible in the wet season.

Banana Leaves as Bedding Material

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Dried banana leaves, still hanging on the plant, are gathered and cut to a uniform length of 45 cm, bundled to a diameter of 8 cm, and soaked in water for three or four hours.

The leaf bed is made in a manner much the same as that used for straw; i.e., the bundles are laid side by side crosswise on the bed foundation, watered, pressed, and planted. Four or sixlayer beds are constructed, depending on the season. The leaf bed also requires the elevated plastic sheet on a bamboo frame immediately after planting.

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