As the country’s population continues to grow, demand for food is ever on the increase, yet food production levels have been on a decline due to natural disasters, pests and diseases, degradation of soil and poor production methods among others.
An issue that has become a major concern to experts is declining soil fertility levels in the country. Kenyan soils have over the years been losing essential nutrients, organic matter and increasing in soil acidity. Years of cultivation and exportation of nutrients from the farm in plant and animal products without proper handling and replenishment of soils have led to fertility loss through leaching, crop removal and soil erosion.
According to a senior officer at the ministry of Agriculture in Naivasha, more than 65 percent of local farmers engaged in small-scale farming do not apply fertilizers on their farms. “The remaining does not apply the right amount either due to ignorance or lack of finances, leading to lower yields,” says the officer.“We don’t have a standardized method of fertilizer application and this depends on the crops being grown on the field and the pH of the soil,” he adds.
However, large-scale farmers, especially flower growers, are making good use of fertilizers due to technical and professional advice, the officer told Smart Farmer during an interview. He advises farmers to get their soil tested and to use the right amount of fertilizer depending on the type of crop they are growing on their farms, whether for local use of commercial purposes. “Test to find out the nutrients deficient in the soil and supplement them to ensure improved yields,” says the officer.
And as demand for food increases the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute in a manual unfertilized, says the need for widespread use of fertilizers both organic and inorganic at higher rates of application is necessary, to raise yields. “But this has to be done judiciously to avoid polluting the environment and ensure its protection, “the research body warns. Fertilizers are either organic or inorganic material, natural or synthetic in origin, which are added to soil or other growing media to supply plant nutrients.
Organic fertilizers are derived from materials like farmyard manure, while green manure and most compost are of plant origin.
Organic fertilizers have several advantages over the conventional, which include increasing the soil’s organic matter content and improving its physical characteristics, resulting in increased water holding capacity and better soil structure.
Organic matter also acts as a store of essential elements like carbon, phosphorous, nitrogen, sculpture and trace elements.
Mineral fertilizers originate from ores, air or water. Because of their high element concentration and solubility, their beneficial effects on plant growth are quick and easy to recognise, says the Kari manual. Fertiliser materials differ in terms of mineral solubility, acidity, alkalinity and physical form.