Turning virgin land into a farm

Wednesday January 29 2020

A prudent farmer should strive to avoid all farming practices that are likely to have negative effects on the farm’s productivity.

If, for example, a virgin piece of land that has for many years been under natural vegetation is to be turned into a farm, it is important to think carefully about what actions are to be taken to remove the natural vegetation and to prepare the land for crop or livestock production.

Some farmers actually take trouble to seek expert advice on how to set up their farms --- where to build farm houses, where to construct roads, and where water pipes will be laid etc.

The nature of the vegetation that is to be removed and the type of farming activity that the farmer wants to adopt will be important factors for consideration.
Some types of grass could be unpalatable to livestock. Cutting down trees with axes or saws is an easier option for most small scale farmers. The grass and shrubs may be removed using simple tools like hoes, machete, and sickles or slashes.

When the grass, the tree branches, and leaves dry, they turn into organic matter which enhances soil fertility. For tall trees ring-barking may be applied, killing them slowly. Some people use herbicides to kill the grass, shrubs, and tall trees.

However, caution must be exercised because herbicides are generally destructive and may kill nutritive grass varieties that will be needed to feed livestock.


Some people opt for bush burning to clear vegetation that is difficult to remove, especially if it is thorny or likely to harbour dangerous wild life such as poisonous snakes. However it has to be born in mind that bush fires, like herbicides, are not good for biodiversity protection.

Fire kills innocent and useful insects such as bees which are important for pollination. Fire destroys grass including any rotting organic material that would be good for soil enrichment.

It burns the soil itself and reduces its capacity for crop production. Bush burning carries the risk of the fire spreading to land belonging to other people and causing conflicts. Often bush burning renders the soil bare and susceptible to erosion ravages.