n Farmer’s Weekly - Earthworms to the rescue : crops




On their 3 000ha farm between Warden and Harrismith in the Free State, David Leslie and his son James grow approximately 700ha potatoes, 600ha maize, 600ha speckled sugar beans and 600ha soya beans under the name Sesisonke. The entire operation is run under conservation agriculture practices, a move the Leslies made about eight years ago, after soil samples yielded puzzling results. "When we broke up virgin soil adjoining a land we had often used before, samples showed that the old soil had sufficient levels of all nutrients, whereas the new soil was deficient in everything," David recalls. "Yet the crop planted in the new soil performed better than the crop in the old soil - despite the supposed deficiency. We didn't know what was going on." At roughly the same time, David had asked an agronomist to classify a piece of land that he wanted to acquire. This land's soil quality was extremely poor, with virtually no humus content.


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