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Thursday, 20 February 2014

Farmers encouraged to have their soil analysed

By Bob Aston
Soil analysis has been used as an aid to assessing soil fertility and plant nutrient requirements and management for many years now. The Ministry of Agriculture in Laikipia County is on the fore front urging farmers to have their soils analyzed. Since January 2014 the Ministry officials have been visiting farmers who have requested to have soil in their farms analyzed.
“The goal of soil testing is to provide an accurate assessment of the soil’s fertility status that can be used to make fertilizer recommendations,” said Samwel Kige, Field Officer Ministry of Agriculture, Sipili division.
Agriculture ministry official collecting soil samples
Kige said that proper soil test will help ensure the application of enough fertilizer to meet the requirements of the crop while taking advantage of the nutrients already present in the soil. He said that each farm has different fertilizer requirements.

Achieving and maintaining appropriate levels of soil fertility, especially plant nutrient availability, is of paramount importance if agricultural land is to remain capable of sustaining crop production at an acceptable level.
Soil analysis will be able to help a farmer to know the current pH  level of the soil, fertility levels of the principal nutrients, type and quantity of lime your soil needs, nutrients need to be added to your soil as fertilizer and amount of fertilizer the crop and soil needs.
“Soil analysis should not be done when the farmer has already ploughed the land. A sample should also not be taken near the farm boundary as it has a lot of growing matter,” said Kige.
Kige said that farmers should have their soil tested regularly and that they should ensure a period of not more than three (3) years passes before they test their soil.
Peter Gathu, a maize farmer from Kiriko Village said that he always harvested very few bags any time he planted maize or beans.
“Some farmers have been getting over 50 bags in a one acre piece of land but with me I have been getting less than 14 bags every time I harvest maize,” said Gathu.
The continuous low yield made Peter start pondering on what to do about his farm. A close friend informed him that the Ministry of Agriculture normally conducts soil analysis.
Kige mixing the collected soil samples
“I decided to consult the ministry of Agriculture to see how the issue of low yield can be resolved. I will follow all the requirements that are expected of me. I hope that I will be able to get between 30-40 bags this time around,” said Gathu.
In a one acre piece of land soil sample from four different parts of the farm plus at the centre are normally collected and then mixed properly and a sample later sent to the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) Nakuru.
The Ministry of Agriculture does not charge for collecting the soil sample but the farmers will have to pay Ksh 1000 to KARI.
On Tuesday, President Uhuru Kenyatta launched the soil testing results at Egerton University, Njoro. Results from soil testing in 164 sub-counties showed that most soils are deprived of necessary nutrients needed in crop production.
The study also found that the most limiting nutrients in the production of maize in all the districts were those required in large amounts namely nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.
Gathu is now waiting for the soil analysis results to be sent to him within 1-2 weeks so that he can start preparing his farm.
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