News and knowhow for farmers

KALRO informs soil liming can double crop yields, launches farmer handbook

Most farmers across the country remain unaware that soil acidity reduces crop yield by almost 50 per cent regardless the amount of fertilizer you use. This poses a major threat to the agricultural sector– the country’s economic backbone.

Through a comparison done on farms where liming was applied production doubled, a small holder farmer in western Kenya who used to harvest 17 bags of maize now harvests 38 bags after the liming process. 

Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, Gatsby Africa, International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC), African Plant Nutrition Institute (APNI), Pwani University, Maseno University, and Rongo University launched the Soil Acidity and Liming handbook to guide farmers on challenges of acidification.

Soil acidity is a condition in which the soil pH is less than 7 because it contains more hydrogen and aluminum ions than the basic cations therefore reducing the availability of nutrients in the soil leading to poor plant growth. 

According to the chairperson of Kenya Fertilizer Roundtable (KeFERT) Mr. Eustace Muriuki 13 per cent of Kenya’s soil are acidic which is about 7.5million hectares of agricultural land. 

The most affected areas with pH values of between 4 and 6 are the regions of Western Kenya, Central, Eastern and the Rift Valley while the coastal region having a slightly acidic pH. Soil acidity can occur naturally or overtime due to poor soil management practices by humans. It’s only through soil testing that a farmer is able to know the soil composition.

“What we need to do to combat soil acidity is liming,’’ said Dr. Lilian Mbuthia of ICL group during the launch of the handbook. 

Years of research have made it clear that liming was the most suitable way to eradicate soil acidity thus increasing crop production. 

Lime should be applied months before planting to allow it to react with the soil. Since limestone is bulky and less soluble therefore creating a need for granulation. Granulation is the conversion of finely ground lime into granules similar in size to fertilizer granules. Granulated/pelletized lime as opposed to powdered lime is more efficient because it reacts faster with the soil therefore can be applied in small doses but is more expensive.

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