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Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Demonstration plot established at Makutano B

By Alice Waigura
Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) together with the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, MEA Ltd and Kenya Seed Company Ltd on May 13, 2014 established a demonstration plot at Makutano B area in Laikipia County. The demo plot which has been established at Peter Mwaniki’s farm will act as a place where farmers will be taught best farming practices.
Kiige demonstrating correct seed spacing
Samwel Kiige, Field Officer Ministry of Agriculture, Sipili division informed farmers that they will be able to benefit from the demo plot as they will be trained on best farming practices from tilling of land to post harvest grain handling. He said that they decided to wait for the rainfall in order to plant in the demo farm.
“The demonstration plot will provide an avenue for farmers to learn good farming practices. We expect that you will be able to replicate what you will learn in your farms. It is when most farmers are planting now due to lack of rainfall but despite that it is still not late,” said Kiige.

Kiige urged farmers to always attend various trainings organized for them as they will be able to improve their knowledge as well as improve the way they farm.

 “We want you to improve your production and this is why we have been at the forefront of urging farmers to practice farming as a business,” said Kiige.
Bob Aston from Ng’arua Maarifa Centre said that Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) has been promoting sustainable family farming by stressing its capacity to address hunger, poverty, environmental degradation and climate change.
Bob said they are now trying to ensure that farmers automate their records through Farm Record Management Information System – Kenya (FARMIS Kenya).
“Effective record keeping and information management is key to the running of a successful enterprise as you will be able to track your expenses. This will enable you to know whether you are making a profit or loss,” said Bob.
Certified hybrid seeds from Kenya Seed Company Ltd were planted in the demo plot. The varieties that have been planted are; H520, H624, H629, H626, and H6210.
Farmers planting at the demo plot
The five certified hybrid seeds have different characteristics like; H624 is tolerant to grey leaf spot, leaf blight and rust. H6210 has good husk cover and is tolerant to lodging and leaf blight. H629 produce big maize, has good husk cover and is leaf blight tolerant. H626 is tolerant to lodging and most leaf diseases. H520 matures early, is tolerant to leaf rust, lodging and grey leaf spot. H624 is tolerant to grey leaf spot, leaf blight and rust.
Kiige informed the farmers that they decided on five (5) different varieties so that they can compare them and see the ones that will do well in the area.
The soil analysis report which Mwaniki had received from KARI indicated that his soil organic matter should be improved as it was deficient in nitrogen, phosphorous and zink. NPK 17:17:17 was therefore used in the demo plot as had been recommended.
Kiige said that NPK fertilizer contains nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. Nitrogen functions as a means for the plant to produce more chlorophyll. This helps plant foliage to grow strong and allow for a dark green color. Phosphorus aids in the initial growth of plants by contributing to root development.
He said that nitrogen fertilizers are very soluble and move readily in moist soil thus placement with or very near the seed is not necessary to ensure effective utilization. Phosphate fertilizers do not move readily in soil thus placing the band of phosphate near developing seedling roots is most effective while Potassium will move in the soil more readily than phosphorus.
“When planting ensure seeds are not planted directly in contact with fertilizer as this can cause poor germination due to scorching,” said Kiige.
Farmers planting at the demo plot
Kiige said that Makutano B is a marginal area hence spacing is supposed to be 90 cm by 30 cm. From one line to the next line is supposed to measure 90 cm while from one hole to the next hole is supposed to be 30 cm.
He advised farmers to practice pure stand as mixing maize and beans together normally leads to reduced yields.
Hole dug for the seedlings should be 8 cm deep when planting when the ground is dry while it should be 5 cm deep when planting when the ground is wet or rather during the rainy season. When hand-planting, put fertilizer in the hole, stir with a panga to mix the fertilizer with the soil, then put the seed. Cover the seed with loose soil.
Kiige said that land choked with grass and other weeds will not produce good maize crops and thus it is important to ensure that the farm is weed free.
He said herbicides may be applied before planting seed or may be used to control weeds in an already established stand. When planting when there are weeds in the farm he advised farmers to use non selective herbicide like Round –up 3-4 days after planting.
Similar demonstration plots have also been established at Kahuruko area in Jackson Chege’s farm, Naiborom at Charles Nderitu’s farm, Muhotetu at Waweru Kanja’s farm and Kabati at Tabitha Wanjiru’s farm.
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