Research on Fertilizer Usage Underway
A research project to transform the way farmers use fertilizer in Malawi is underway courtesy of the ministry of agriculture’s Research Services Department.
The Soil Health Diagnostic Trials project comes against a backdrop of farmers’ complaints that they have not been yielding enough despite using fertilizer.
In Malawi the tradition has been that farmers use any type of fertilizer for basal dressing and top dressing regardless of the type of soil and its natural nutritional components.
This is the trend that the Soil Health Diagnostic Trials project aims to change to ensure that farmers maximize on yields by using the right type of fertilizers in the right type of soil, according to its coordinator Dr Wilkson Makumba.
“The area fertilizer specific recommendation is going to assist us to reduce the quantities of fertilizers that we are applying per hectare”, he says.
“Like the 92 kilograms of nitrogen per hectare is being applied everywhere but we do need all that in all areas. In some areas they have adequate amounts phosphorus that they do not need even adding extra, some have medium quantities that we really add the quantities”, said Dr Makumba.
The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa has put $ 420, 000(MK 70, 000 000) in the project.
“We decided to fund this programme because it falls within our mission where we want to promote agriculture in order to have a food secure Africa”, says Rebe Harawa, AGRA Program Officer responsible for soil health in east and southern Africa.
“To be food secure it requires use of both chemical and inorganic fertilizers, but to use organic and inorganic fertilizers you need to have the right type and the right amounts of fertilizers in the right places. And this project is to fine tune the fertilizer recommendations”, she added.
Director of Research in the Ministry of Agriculture, Alfred Mtukuso says the project will help farmers save on fertilizer costs. He said currently farmers are not getting maximum yields because of a blanket recommendation for fertilizer application the country has.
“There is a lot of variability in the soil types and fertility levels in the country, so this project is fine tuning the recommendations so that they are area specific to suit the types of crops grown in a particular area and therefore we’ll be getting maximum yield,
“But also this project will address the issue of total soil health. In other words, applying chemical fertilizer alone is not enough. We need to apply organic manure and intercrop our crops with legumes to build the organic reserves in the soils,” said Mkukuso.
It is expected that final results of the research will be made available to the public after three years, but currently farmers involved in the trials, for example in Chiwamba, Traditional Authority Chimutu in Lilongwe are already utilizing the experience.
Group Village headman Mseche hailed the project as a major compliment to farmers’ efforts to improve crop production by using lesser inputs. “When we see our maize growing greener, we know that we are going to have enough food. We need this research because our soils here are degraded”.
Currently farmers in Malawi produce less than a tone of maize from a hectare, but experts says there is potential of 10 tones where proper farming methods are followed.
AGRA works to achieve a food secure and prosperous Africa through the promotion of rapid, sustainable agricultural growth based on smallholder farmers.—Zodiak Online
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