...of field experiments.
War has ben raging against an onslaught of bloody destruction in our experimental plots this season. This is a battle like no other. Here are some of the top killers; we'll be making a card deck with their pictures soon:
PORCUPINE: Our battles are never fought in the day. This is a night war. Porcupine come through after midnight by digging enormous holes in the fence that look like some threw down a cherry bomb. Penetrating the electric fence, they have feed on our maize and its intercropped mucuna seedlings (velvet bean), devouring entire rows!
With holes all along a mile of fencing, we went to work digging trenches to build a wall of dirt to blind their view. Then in the large points of entry, we buried huge rocks. What a nice surprise those will be. Over one night they can re-dig massive craters under the fence though. That's when we bring out the rebar. Hammering them a foot and a half down and 3 inches apart, they keep all but the smallest and most determined porcupine out.
During and after the construction of these embattlements, a few nights of camping near the perimeter, and making late night rounds with spot lights and spears, their carnage has been slowed, but not stopped. We have even seen places where a few were trapped in and dug themselves out. Hopefully the defenses hold as we prepare to get harvest data with the maize.
STEENBOK: These small antelope infiltrated the pivot defenses some time last year, and have bunkered down in "the wetland," an impenetrable area of the pivot. They come through after 10 pm, grazing on unsuspecting sunhemp and Lablab, causing them to branch out wildly. We planted extra seeds throughout the pivot to distract them from our plots, but they always go right to the heart of the study. No where is safe. We also have intel that small steenbok footprints have been seen. Not having seen evidence of forced entry, we believe they are breading, generating more troops from the inside. If that's not a nightmare I don't know what is.
CUTWORMS: An offensive that occurs entirely bellow the soil surface, these heartless killers have knocked out many Moringa trees and small sorghum and legumes in the Zai study. Not using pesticides by design, there is nothing we can do to lower their causality rate except kill them on sight, which isn't often. Suggestions welcome.
BIRDS: This enemy flies over well-maintained fences. There is absolutely no protection, and they come at all hours of the day. Their main target is the grain heads of our sorghum. We've been able to thwart their mission by deploying mesh bags over the grain heads, and it has been a military success story, if we get the bags on the newly-emerged grain heads fast enough. Fatalities remain low, however.
WARTHOG: We know very little about their role at this time. All we see is that they are here, which is quite unnerving not knowing when they may strike. We have seen and baracaded their entry points, and detected footprints all around the fence line. We think they are acting as informants, spying on what we are doing and delivering the intel to couriers at the fence line. [After the time this was written a close relative of the warthog, a Bush pig, was found in the pivot. It was violently removed]