Client x requested the release of a portion of his credit to hire workers to weed his field of sesame.  The sesame is small due to the lack of rain, and the weeds are doing what weeds do best – using what little moisture there is very efficiently and quickly catching up to the sesame.  Edgard decided not to release the credit to the farmer just yet, for various reasons.

– Because the sesame is underdeveloped and has not established extensive root systems yet, the weeds will help hold the dry powdery soil in place and prevent erosion during a typically powerful  October rainstorm

– The leaf cover provided by the weeds preserves what little moisture there is in the soil, making it accessible for the sesame as well.

– The weeds also reduce the amount of mud that splashes up onto the sesame when it rains, which helps protect the sesame from diseases like phytophthera that can stay dormant in the soil until they come in contact with vegetation.

This isn´t the first weedy field that I´ve come across in Nicaragua.  In March, while with a guide in San Rafael del Norte, we passed a field that looked to me like a disaster.  A pasture for cattle? No, a bean field.  I commented that that poor farmer lost the weeding game because you could barely see the bean plants.  No, the guide said, that’s what a good bean field looks like.  When you harvest, you cut the weeds at the same time.  First you pile the weeds into piles, then pull out the bean plants and put them on top of the piles of weeds to dry.  Like in the sesame field, the weeds protect the crop from soil contact, and contact with the molds or diseases living in the soil.

In the states, weeds are the number one reason why organic farmers lose crops.  Labor is so expensive that if the weeds drown a field the labor to harvest combined with the smaller size of the product due to competition with the weeds means the entire crop is no longer profitable.  For that reason I have spent unimaginable numbers of hours on tractors and hand weeding to prevent crops from getting to that point.  Here is seems that there is a more compassionate relationship between weeds and organic farmers.

In addition to lots of weeds, last season's corn is sprouting amongst the beans, which shows that this farmers has a good crop rotation

In addition to lots of weeds, last season's corn is sprouting amongst the beans, which shows that this farmer has a good crop rotation