The middle of the wet season is a busy time for most corn farming families, but one farmer in Viqueque has found a way to dramatically reduce his workload by using velvet bean, or lehe as the native plant is known in Timor-Leste.

Weeding can be a huge burden on farmers in the wet season and usually requires the help of the whole family. Whether or not a crop is weeded can mean the difference between its success and failure.

Whether or not a crop is weeded can mean the difference between its success and failure.

However, lehe or velvet bean, a native plant that Seeds of Life is helping the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries distribute, can reduce this workload and improve plant growth by naturally smothering weeds.

Viqueque farmer, Filomeno Pinto first heard about the technology when he attended a MAF-SoL field day at the Betano research station last year.

Pinto employed the technology by planting velvet bean between his corn plants in January 2012.

Lehe is planted a few weeks after corn, this ensures any weeds will be covered by the lehe, but the corn will already be high enough to continue growing.

After smothering the weeds, the lehe decomposes, leaving the soil soft and fertile for the next season.

After smothering the weeds, the lehe decomposes, leaving the soil soft and fertile for the next season

‚ÄúWhen we did have to take out the few weeds that were in the ground this year, it was so soft, they were easy to pull out,‚ÄĚ said Pinto‚Äôs son in law, Gilberto Monteiro. ‚ÄúWhere we had no velvet bean the ground was harder and there were a lot more weeds.‚ÄĚ

‚ÄúOur neighbours stop and ask what variety we‚Äôre growing, we tell them it‚Äôs not the variety, but the lehe has really fertilised the ground,‚ÄĚ he said.

Lehe Before and After copy

Before and after the lehe worked its magic on Filomeno Pinto’s corn crop

Pinto and Monteiro first heard of velvet bean from MAF researcher Inacio Savio Pereira, who has been working to bring new technologies to farms in Timor-Leste.

‚ÄúNormally I just bring improved seed varieties to farmers but now I bring velvet bean too because it‚Äôs a great help to farmers, reduces their workload and helps them produce more corn,‚ÄĚ Pereira said.