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Enhancing drought resistance through guinea grass mulching




UN and affiliated organization


Caribbean and Central America

Scope of work
















Good practices and lessons learned

Some lessons learned include the following steps for the implementation of the technology: Step 1: Harvest Guinea Grass before flowering (seeding), because when the seeding begins, the guinea grass stem becomes more liquefied and thus more difficult to break down as mulch. There are also a higher proportion of stems to leaves after seeding, and it is the leaves that account for the bulk of the matting that forms mulch. Timing is therefore critical when harvesting the guinea grass. Step 2: Secure sufficient amount of grass to adequately cover the area prepared for cultivation. To provide a mat that will not break down before the cropping season is over, it is recommended to use 46 cubic meters of dried grass per hectare of prepared land. Step 3: Apply fertilizers and any other soil treatment, especially if fertilizer will be broadcast and incorporated into the soil. Step 4: Prepare holes for sowing seeds or for transplant. Step 5: For ease of preparation the dried grass to be used should be piled in the vicinity of the land to be treated. Dried grass is to be removed from the heap, and the leaves arranged length-wise in a single direction over the prepared area, completely covering the soil. The process is to be repeated in the opposite direction, forming a matt. Step 6: Mulching operation is now complete and crop production activities may now proceed as usual. Additional lessons learned focus on the advantages of mulching: i. it allows crop production during dry periods in areas where this would not be possible without irrigation. The process reduces evapotranspiration and traps soil moisture within the mulch environment and makes it available for an extended period for the establishment of crops. In the early stages of seed germination, condensation on the mulch provides moisture for germinating seeds. Mulch also keeps the root environment cool, allowing better crop establishment and nutrient uptake; ii. it suppresses weed growth, reduces competition for soil nutrients and reduces cost of weed control; iii. it reduces soil loss from wind erosion, when soil structure is disturbed during harrowing or other traditional forms of land preparation. Mulching protects the soil from splash and rill erosion by reducing the impact of rainfall on the surface and prevents the development of rills; iv. the presence of mulch on the surface helps to deflect direct sunlight from the root zone of crops thus resulting in lower temperature in the root zone and more efficient utilization of soil nutrients; v. it facilitates improvement in soil structure by preventing deterioration of soil surface Incorporation of organic matter into the soil structure. This helps to bind soil particles together, thus improving structure and moisture-holding capacity; vi. it reduces the exposure to high temperature by the application of mulch, thus allowing greater availability of nutrients to plants. Many inorganic fertilizers, especially those with high nitrogen content and some organic manures (such as poultry manure), volatize if left exposed to high temperature; vii. it ensures a more even coloration between the parts of vine crops, such as melons and pumpkins that rest on the ground and the rest of the crop, and thus mulching improves their marketability. Mulching also prevent scarring of crops by providing a cushion for vine crops. viii. the improvement of soil properties achieved will benefit the resilience of farmers against climate variability and adverse climate events (droughts, floods, ect.). Also, it will improve the potential of the soil to increase the crop yield



Date of submission






Adaptation element

Adaptation planning and practices

Adaptation sector/theme

Disaster risk reduction; Indigenous and traditional knowledge

Climate hazard





Local, indigenous and traditional knowledge


Drought has become more frequent in some areas of Jamaica, which increases the vulnerability of farmers whose livelihoods depend on agriculture. While there is a general perception that negative effects of droughts can be mitigated through appropriate technologies, their actual adoption is often hampered by the availability of resources. One widely adopted agricultural practice is guinea grass mulching, by which land after it has been prepared for cultivation is covered with dried guinea grass. It is done before sowing to ensure that moisture is conserved, weed is controlled, soil erosion, run-off and soil temperature are reduced, soil structure is improved and volatile fertilizer material is retained. The objective of the activities is to allow crop production during the dry season without having to recur to irrigation. This technique enhances soil moisture for germinating seeds and allows for a better crop establishment and nutrient uptake.

Expected outcome


Further information




Indicators of achievement



Case study




Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, FAO



Regional group


Target group







The technology was tested in mixed coastal plantation farming systems in Jamaica. For further information, please see:



Type of knowledge resource


Scale of work





TCP/RLA/3101 Assistance to Improve Local Agricultural Emergency Preparedness in Caribbean Countries Highly Prone to Hydro-Meteorological Disasters, Jamaica, Final Report April 2007[13] Spence B. et al. (2005) Experiences and Behaviour of Jamaican Residents in Relation to Hurricane Ivan. Report submitted to the Japan International Corporation Agency, 2005. Thomas-Hope E. and B. Spence (2002) Promoting Agro-biodiversity under Difficulties: The Jamaica PLEC Experience. PLEC News and Views, #19, March 2002. Burton, Thomas, (2001) Dry farming Techniques: The Use of Grass Mulch, Rural Agricultural Development Agency, Jamaica. Sherman, Scott, Grass Mulch: An innovative Way of Gardening in the Dry Tropics. Morrison, B.J. M. Gold and D. Latange (1996) Incorporating Indigenous Knowledge of Fodder Trees into the Small-scale Silvopastoral Systems in Jamaica, Agroforestry Systems, 34 (1), 1996. [14] [15]

Implementing partners







Content Type: NWPSearchableItem
Version: 2.0
Created at 10/10/2018 14:30 by Serkant Samurkas
Last modified at 28/04/2022 16:37 by Nicholas Hamp-Adams