Sunlight is a very useful source of energy in the farm. Yes, the sunlight we so much condemn for scorching our tender plants and “reducing production.” Many farmers see sunlight as a challenge and it can be understood- there is a lot of misinformation out there about sunlight; and so- I will just point out before we go into the details that sunlight is not drought and definitely not a cause of it. Sunlight is basically that; sunlight. The energy that powers all life on earth through photosynthesis which is actually the only process through which food is formed.
Sunlight is not drought and definitely not a cause of it. Sunlight is basically that; sunlight.
So how can we maximize use of sunlight on the farm?
We all are familiar with how the plant makes its food- photosynthesis and the process involves breaking down water molecules before combining them with CO2 to form carbohydrates, proteins etc. Apart from producing the edible food that we harvest from plants- this process can be very useful in fixing carbon in the soil- supporting the lives of soil living microorganisms and by extension build soil fertility.
The abundance of sunlight is a great opportunity for farmers; to not only produce enough but also to grow plants that in the end can be used to improve the quality of the soil contributing towards a more regenerative approach of farming that goes beyond seasons to ensure sustainability and maintain productivity of agricultural soils. There are various approaches that can be used to get the best out of sunlight on the farm, the most basic approach is there is a living root in the soil all year round;
One simple approach that you can practice on your farm is ensuring that the soil is covered by plants all year round. How can this be achieved? A farmer should be able to program their farm such that crops can be grown in between the seasons; for instance- If you want to grow beans after maize (north rift scenario) you can introduce the beans in October allow then to grow under the maize and benefit from the few days of rain remaining so that they can grow till December.
Intercropping and mixed cropping which are common among farmers in Kenya also ensure that the space in between rows is utilized is also an effective approach in ensuring soil cover which eventually translates to optimum absorption of sunlight. Intercropping attempts to use crop-crop interactions in enhancing resistance to pests and diseases, uptake of nutrients by plants etc. Mixed cropping on the other hand might not necessarily be observing crop to crop interactions but nonetheless ensures more surface cover than in monocrops.
Through the famous process of photosynthesis; plants are able to take up CO2 from the atmosphere, convert it into sugars (carbohydrates) and feed it into the soil through decomposition. Ensuring that optimum soil cover therefore contributes greatly to generation of biomass (green/compost manure) for healthy and productive soils. As we know, sunlight is abundant and we need to take advantage of it- especially when we have some moisture in the soil not only to fill our baskets, but also to build our soils.