A capsule coated fertilizer that releases nutrients only when the crop is starved and only applied once during a crop's lifetime, is enjoying a boom in the country with farmers using it recording upto 20 percent increase in yields, at a time when erratic supply of fertilizer and price hikes have taken a toll on yields and farmers' incomes.
The new fertilizer known as Smart fertilizer borrows its name from the controlled or automatic way it administers’ itself to the crop and is imported from Israel.
Introduced two years ago in the country through Amiran Farmers kit program, the fertilizer has become an instant hit. “It is anchored on the fact that a crop when planted is on a long journey until it’s harvesting period and therefore just like humans while on a long journey, the plants need to equip themselves with enough food stock or supply while on this long journey germination to maturity. Therefore, the Smart fertilizer is capsule coated which enables it to control the release of the nutrients to the plant and only feeds it when it needs it throughout its life span,” explained Yariv Kedar Deputy Managing Director for Amiran Kenya limited which supplies the Smart Fertilizer.
Unlike the conventional fertilizers in the market, Smart fertilizer ensures that it does not dissolve in the soil and therefore cannot be washed away by water. The coat ensures that the fertilizer exists in the soil for the provision of nutrients to the plant throughout the season. The capsule coat only allows the nutrients to be released to the plant when the plant needs it and this is only possible at certain climatic conditions. “The fertilizer is released at intervals and only when the soil temperature and humidity is above 16 degrees centigrade which is the prerequisite condition for all plants to absorb nutrients and roots to develop,” Noted Yariv.
The use of the Smart fertilizer does not need any expert as it is mixed together with soil in the holes while planting. Its nutritional content of Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium is also higher compared to the conventional fertilizer and this explains why the fertilizer is applied only once during the planting time and it manages to serve the plant throughout the season to maturity. The new fertilizer is also safer for the plants and is not acidic to plants like the conventional ones which after application dissolve and release all the content to the plant choking the plant as they cannot use all these nutrients at once.
The Smart fertilizer is safer in this regard due to the fact that it has a capsule coat which only releases the nutrient when needed by the plant. It is also ideal for soils with different acidity levels as it controls the release of phosphorus to the plant. Yariv explained, “The capsule coat enables phosphorus content in the fertilizer to be directly connected to the plant unlike in the case with the conventional fertilizers where the phosphorus is directly absorbed by the soil leaving the plant with nothing.” Micro elements or Vitamins which are important components that lacks in most of the conventional fertilizers are available in the Smart fertilizer. While using the conventional fertilizers, one will require an extra budget to spend on these elements in order to get the best results from the crop harvest.
The Smart fertilizer can be used on all types of crops and is fit for any type of climate and Yariv noted that it is currently being used by thousands of farmers both smallholder and large scale countrywide. “Several organizations’ in the country like Red Cross trying to ensure food security is enhanced have been using the Smart fertiliser in their various projects Eastern and North Eastern regions and the results have been commendable,” said Yariv. It can also be used for both greenhouse and open field farming. The beauty about the Smart fertilizer is that it is divided into specific categories which are mainly designed for various plants depending on their length of stay in the farm or maturity period. For instance, for greenhouse tomato varieties that fruit for over 8 months, the type of Smart fertilizer used is designed to last this period.
Similarly to short term crops like water melons there is a specified type of Smart fertilizer that basically lasts for this short period. Yariv added that for one to get the best tasty fruits especially in greenhouse farming, he may add complementary micro elements like poly seed in the drip tank then apply it on a weekly basis after the plants start flowering. The fertilizer is also ideal for open field farming and fit for all ranges of crops grown in the country like maize which is Kenya’s staple food and even sugarcane.
The fertilizer is currently sold at about Sh200 per kilo a price slightly higher than the conventional fertilizers in the market. However, Yariv explained that the long term benefits of the Smart fertilizers like its ability to provide nutrients to the plant throughout the season and the fact that it is not soluble in the soil to be washed away by water immediately after its application in the soil like is the case with the conventional fertilizers in the market makes it cost effective.
He also argued that although the conventional fertilizer’s market price is a bit lower compared to the Smart fertilizer, a greenhouse tomato farmer using the Conventional fertilizer will have to apply it over five times as compared to the farmer using Smart fertilizer who only applies it once during the planting period and the fertilizer feeds the plant throughout the season until harvesting period. Therefore at the end of the season, Yariv adds that the Smart fertilizer farmer will have saved on fertilizer usage . It is packaged in three and 25 kilogram bags thereby making it ideal for both smallholder and large scale farmers.
For more information on the fertilizer contact