A researcher from Kinyara Sugar factory in western Uganda has developed a biological fertilizer that remains active in the soil six months after application, and is correcting the soil infertility menace that has taken a toll on cane yields.
Most sugar plantations in Uganda rely on chemical fertilizers to boost yields. However, over reliance on chemical fertilizers has been blamed by experts as having a negative impact on the soil fertility and that is why Dr Dr. B. Ramesh an entomologist from Kinyara Sugar factory set out on a mission to acquire an alternative. “We need to rejuvenate the soils and that is why we came up with a technology of using organisms to fix the soils. The solution has azotobacter bacteria that solidify nitrogen to make it soluble,” explained the scientist.
The solution can be used on almost all crops and Dr. Ramesh revealed that trials have already been done on Sugar cane, millet, simsim among others. “It’s ideal for all crops because it targets both the crop and soil,” he added. It is recommended that one sprays the soil around the plant and target the root zone. Seedling can be dipped in the solution and seeds can also be soaked before planting to have a similar effect from the solution. A litre of the solution is mixed with 150-200 litres of water and can spray about a hectare.
Sugar cane which was sprayed in late 2012 with fertiliser is yet to be harvested as it takes about 18 months to mature but Dr. Ramesh is optimistic with an almost double yield impact. The trials on maize were great as we had a 40percent increase in yield as opposed to the areas where we used DAP (Diammonium phosphate).
He further recommends the solution for its bio-friendly attributes and affordability considering that most farmers cannot afford most fertilizers due to their higher costs. “One litre of the bio-fertiliser solution retails at UGshs30,000 and can be used on 2.5 acres. Once the micro organisms are sprayed they multiply in numbers and can stay active in the soil for over six months and therefore one will not need to buy other fertilizers for short term crops like maize as he will apply it once per season. For long term crops like sugar cane, the solution is applied after every six months,” noted Dr. Ramesh.
Production of the bio-fertilizer began in late 2014 and it has already been certified for commercialization. Yields from most arable soils in Africa have been on a free fall and this is largely attributed to the continuous use of DAP fertilizers which experts say have reduced the soil PH levels. A recent joint report by FAO revealed that continuous use of fertilizers such as DAP has resulted in reduced soil pH and declining productivity.