3. Maize based farming systems on young volcanic soils Malang District, East Java: 1983-1989   

Images CVSIND 103-197



 The study of maize based farming systems was initiated in the Malang District
 during 1982 and is indicated by a pin on the map. In following years the study was extended to other districts in East Java.
Detailed maps are available in the individual reports made for the study.

The description of the maize based farming systems on young volcanic soils in Malang District, East Java is based on the results of the “On farm research program” of the Malang Research Institute for Food Crops, which program studied maize based farming systems on young volcanic soils, at altitudes between 400 & 1000 meters above sea level. The program was conducted between 1983- 1989 by a research team of the Malang Research Institute for Food Crops, East Java- MARIF.

“The original objective of the study by the “Maize-On-Farm-Research” team was the question of the MARIF maize breeder, who had developed a new maize composite named “Arjuna”, which he had distributed among a number of farmers growing maize. However, when he visited the maize fields of the cooperating farmers, he observed that his Arjuna variety looked spindly and was planted with a much greater plant density than he had advised. He also found that the cooperating farmers had given a much higher application of nitrogen fertilizer than he had advised, while they had neglected his recommendation to apply phosphate and potassium fertilizers. Furthermore, in many farmer fields many maize plants were lodging. The average yield level of the Arjuna variety of farmers was only 1.8 ton per ha, while the average yields obtained on the trial fields of the research station of the same maize variety, were between 4 to 5 ton dry grain of maize per hectare.

Following this the “Maize-on-farm research team” was formed with members of all disciplines of the Institute, including a maize breeder, an agronomist, a soil specialist, a pest- and disease specialist and agricultural economists. This team started its work, conducting a survey among maize growers in the Malang District with special attention to farmers already growing the Arjuna variety. The result of the survey was an overview with a detailed description of the practices of farmers growing maize, including information on the size of plots used for maize growing. The maize growing activities of the farmers were summarized as follows:

Farmers cropped their maize fields very intensively: Their farm practices included adequate land preparation, row planting, high seed rates, excellent weed control, high levels of fertilizers and farmyard manure. Yet the maize plants, regardless of variety, had spindly stalks and discolored leaves and in many fields lodging was a serious problem. Farmers’ maize yields were on average about 1.8 ton per ha, compared with 5 tons per ha obtained on the fields of the research station, for the same maize varieties. Initially, the research team could not explain the differences in maize yields. It was therefore decided to work together with farmers growing maize and plant” On farm trials “, to compare the maize growing practices of the farmers with the recommended practices of the research station.

Fortunately, five of the interviewed farmers agreed to join hands with the research team to conduct a“ Maize on farm trial” on their fields during the following maize growing season. 

All participating farmers warned the team a few days ahead when they intended to plant the next maize crop.

On the planting day the team joined the cooperating farmer planting his maize field, while planting in the middle of the field a trial, following the recommendations for growing maize as developed on the research station.Each participating farmer used his own maize planting method, which was summarized as follows.
Row planting is with 7 to 8 seeds per plant hole without fertilizer application.  First fertilizer application is with nitrogen after one month after planting, together with a first weeding of the field.
The teams’ management consisted of three maize kernels per plant hole, together with 5 gram of nitrogen, 3 gram of  phosphate and potassium fertilizers.

One week after planting, the team members inspected the maize field and observed that plant emergence in both the farmers part and the teams part of the field was nearly hundred percent.

One week later, 14 days after planting, the team inspected the field again and the researchers were shocked to observe that in both sections of the field, a considerable number of seedlings had disappeared.

Consulting the farmer, the team was told that this was the normal picture about ten days after planting because of an attack of shoot flies who eat away a large number of the recently emerged maize seedlings. 

The farmer explained that this shoot fly pest was the reason why he planted eight maize seeds per plant hole, as he hoped that at least some seedlings would survive. The shoot fly attack within the first three weeks after planting also explained why farmers were giving their first nitrogen fertilizer application only after four weeks after planting, as only at that moment in the maize growing cycle farmers could determine which plants had survived the shoot fly attacks. Due to the slow decomposition, it also made no sense to apply potassium and phosphate fertilizer to the maize plant at that late stage, as phosphate and potassium fertilizers decompose slowly and come only gradually available to the plant roots, while the need for these fertilizers is particularly great immediately after emergence.   

None of the research team had experienced a shoot fly attack before this, as it appeared that all maize and other food crop trials planted on the research station fields always received a standard application with the insecticide “Carbofuran” at planting, to avoid insect damage!

Learning from this experiment, the following maize growing season the research team added per plant hole during planting a 3-gram “Carbofuran” insecticide for a second round of on-farm trials with ten cooperating farmers.
This time it was the farmers who were surprised because they observed that in the trial field all the maize seeds survived and grew into vigorous plants. This was due to A) the “Carbufuran” insecticide which prevented a shoot fly attack and B) because the plants could absorb all nitrogen, phosphate and potassium fertilizers during the first weeks after planting. Furthermore due to the lower plant density no interplant competition occurred, resulting in the absence of spindly and lodging maize plants.

A comparison of the yield at harvest showed that the “Arjuna” maize seeds when managed with the recommended fertilizer gift and insecticide yielded, also on farmer fields, nearly five ton of maize per ha, compared with farmers yields of 1.8 ton per ha.

After the shoot fly problem was solved, the research team was able to identify other maize yield reducing problems, including reducing plant densities, lodging and spindly maize and convince the farmers to follow the recommended planting practices.

Already after the first successful season of the research team, nearby living farmers started to follow the recommended maize growing instructions and ten years after the team had started to do its first maize on farm trial, the East Java provincial maize yields per ha had risen from 1.8 ton per ha to and average of 4 ton of maize per ha.
The images of the photo gallery
The images shown in the present photo gallery of maize farming systems in East Java, were taken during the surveys-Images CVSIND 103-110 and on farm trials: Images 111-197. This program covered the period 1983 to 1989, whereby the research cycle covered two maize crops per year. The actual study area covered about 30 000 ha of land planted with maize, but with two maize crops per year represented an annual area of 60 000 ha of maize harvested in the Malang District. Note however, that the conditions in the study area are representative for a much wider physical area of approximately 150 000 ha of maize, or an annual harvested area of 300 000 ha of maize, as most aspects of the maize farming systems in the Malang District are basically representative for the upland entire area of maize grown in the East Java Province, which measures about one million and hundred twenty five thousand ha planted with maize (Tabor et al. 1986), or an annual harvested area of 2.250 000 ha of maize.

Background: Farming in the Malang District is characterized by traditional smallholder farming systems with small farm sizes: The average farm size is 0.8 ha divided over three to five different plots per farm holding.

Maize is cropped either as mono crop or intercropped, mixed cropped or relay cropped whereby maize is the dominant crop with other food crops such as soybean, ground nuts, cassava, dry land rice, vegetables and fruit trees, including papaya and other local fruits. Images CVSIND111-131

Yields of the major crops in the Malang district were relatively low before the maize on farm research program started in 1983, for example maize: 1.8 ton of dry maize per ha, but after ten years in East Java, average maize yields were 4 ton per ha and had increased to over a hundred percent compared with 1983. The yield levels of other food crops in East Java remained at the same level as in 1983, as there had not been on-farm research programs for these crops, as is shown in the following table:

Average Yields in East Java were as follows:


Average yields in 1983 per harvested crop: kg/ha dry grain

Average yields in 1993 per harvested crop: kg/ha dry grain

Maize 1800 4500
Rice 4800 4800
Soybean 950 950
Groundnut 950 950
Mung Bean 650 650
Cassava 10500 10500

Main activities of maize growing:
Land preparation: ploughing, levelling and harrowing the land with a pair of cows or oxen. This includes manure application, at the end of the rainy season and after the first crop. Images CVSIND138, 153,154 & 172

Planting: Row planting of the maize seeds: traditional farmer 6 to 8 seeds per plant hole with 150 000 plants per ha. In the on-farm research program three seeds were planted per plant hole with an average of 50 000 plants per ha. In addition, an application with three gram of “Carbofuran” 3 % granules was given in the plant hole to combat shoot fly infestation- to avoid that the shoot fly larvae eat the maize seedlings in the period between 1 to 3 weeks after planting. Images CVSIND142-145. Nitrogen, phosphate and potassium fertilizers applications are also given in the plant hole at planting.  Images CVSIND141& 155 to167 show the effect of deficiencies of these fertilizers: Images 146 & 147 show phosphate deficiency Image 148 & 149 show a sulphate deficiency. Also is shown the effect of Downey mildew- a fungus disease, which in some crop seasons can devastate up to 50% of a maize crop. Downey mildew can only be prevented by selecting Downey mildew resistant varieties. Images: 150 &151. In addition, there are a number other insect pests, which can damage maize plants: Image 152

First weeding thinning and hilling up: are done about 3 weeks after planting.

Second weeding and second fertilization: Four weeks after planting, cattle again plough the maize field: cows or oxen. Image: 172. Thereafter, the maize field is further cleaned with a hoe-Images 169 & 170 After this, a second nitrogen fertilizer application of 5 gram per plant is given Image: 171 & 174.

The third nitrogen application is given six weeks after planting Images: 173,175&176.
The different stages of the maize plant, are shown in following images:
One-week-old maize plants: 177
Ten days old maize plants: 178 & 179
Two weeks old maize plants: 180 &181
Three weeks old maize plants: 182
Four weeks old maize plants: 183
Six weeks old maize plants: 184
Eight weeks old maize plants: 185
Ten weeks old maize plants: 186
12 weeks old: the maize plant is forming a tassel: 187
14 weeks after planting: the maize plant starts to form a cob: 188
15/16 weeks after planting the maize plants are ready for harvest: 189
Harvesting of maize: 190,191 and harvested field 192
Checking the maize yield: 193
Drying maize cobs: 194 & 195
Traditional containers to carry maize cobs: 196

NB. The maize is often stored in the cob leaves, in bunches on top of the kitchen ceiling. An example of stored maize is shown in image: 109 & 156

Grinding- After the maize is peeled the maize kernels are cracked or ground to prepare “ beras jagung” or “maize rice”, which is steamed in a similar fashion as rice. 179

The above description of maize growing in the Malang upland- Tegal farming systems show the close interaction between the maize crop and livestock:
-Cattle provide draft power for land preparation and weeding;
-Cattle manure is applied as fertilizer to selected fields, in particular the maize fields
-Maize thinnings-cuttings of redundant young maize- serve as one of the sources of livestock feed.

The majority of labor is provided by family labor, while hired labor is occasionally hired to assist with harvesting.

-The Maize Survey: Malang District December 1984. The report was a joint effort of the survey team, with me as the editor.
-Maize on-farm Research in the District of Malang 1987; Report prepared by the research team, which includes me.
- Planned Change in Farming Systems: Progress in On-Farm Research, 1991 edited by Robert Tripp. John Wiley & Sons Chichester, New York etc.
Chapter 7: From Diagnosis to Farmer Adoption: MARIF’s On Farm Research Program in East Java.  I was one of the co-authors for this chapter



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