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Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Agriculture officer urges farmers to embrace Conservation Agriculture

By Bob Aston
Soil is the most valuable and widespread natural resource which supports agricultural based livelihoods. However, there is a general decline in land productivity due to declining soil fertility.In Kenya, the yields of food crops per acre are on the decline partly due to continuous farming without adequate soil nutrients replenishment. This indicates the need for better soil management practices.
The declining soil fertility particularly in Ol-Moran Ward, Laikipia County has prompted Mr. James Kamau, Ol-Moran Ward Agriculture officer to advice farmers to adopt Conservation agriculture as it reverses the effect of soil degradation caused by mechanical tillage.
He noted that the United Nations (UN) declared 2015 as the International Year of Soils (IYS) in recognition of the importance of soil.
He noted that Conservation Agriculture ensures that the soil remains undisturbed from harvest to planting except for nutrient injection. Planting or drilling takes place in a narrow seedbed or slot created by coulters, row cleaners, disk openers, in-row chisels or roto-tillers. Weed control is primarily by herbicides with little environmental impact.
Farmers being shown maize planted through Conservation Agriculture
“Soil under conservation agriculture has very high water infiltration capacities thus reducing surface runoff and soil erosion which in turn improves the quality of surface water leading to a reduction of soil erosion and an enhancement of ground water resources,” said Mr. Kamau.
According to Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, conservation agriculture is a concept of “resource-saving agricultural crop production that strives to achieve acceptable profits together with high and sustained production levels while concurrently conserving the environment”.
“This year we are going to lay a lot of emphasis on Conservation Agriculture. It is clear that Climate change has led to a drastic decline in food production in Ol-Moran Ward. Conservation Agriculture is one of the ways in which we will use to mitigate against the adverse effects of Climate Change,” said Mr. Kamau.
He said that the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries intends to reach farmers through field days to urge them to adopt Conservation Agriculture. He also said plans are under way to set up demonstration plots that can be used for training farmers.
According to FAO, healthy soils are the foundation for food, fuel, fibre and even medicine. FAO approximates that 33 percent of the global soil resources are degraded due to erosion, compaction, soil sealing, salinization, soil organic matter and nutrient depletion, acidification and pollution.
Conservation agriculture holds tremendous potential for all sizes of farms and agro-ecological systems, but its adoption is perhaps most urgently required by smallholder farmers, especially those facing acute labour shortages. It is a way to combine profitable agricultural production with environmental concerns and sustainability
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