Smallholder farmers involved in legumes are counting a doubling of yields thanks to an organic fertilizer that increases fertilizer through its nitrogen fixing bacteria. The fertilizer dubbed ‘Biofix legume inoculants’ was developed by University of Nairobi in 1978 but was never commercialized until 2008.
MEA one of the leading farm input manufacturing company partnered with the University to commercialize the product after realizing its’ importance in nitrogen fixing. According to Wafullah Teresah a Biofix manager at MEA, the company launched the product targeting leguminous crop farmers in a bid to improve their soil fertility and crop yields. “We are aiming at providing affordable solutions to smallholder farmers in order to improve their production and food security in the country,” added Wafullah.
Since its’ introduction in the Kenyan market, the organic fertilizer is gaining prominence among farmers with over 60,000 using it. The fertilizer’s capability of doubling yields of legumes like snow peas, beans, soya among others is a factor that Wafullah mostly attributes to its’ wide spread adoption. Additionally, she notes that due to depletion of nitrogen in most soils in the country, the product is being sought after by the farmers to help fix their soils and it’s an ideal for most farmers who carry out crop rotation. Dick Morgan a veteran farmer in Chavakali, Vihiga County who stumbled on Biofix while training with N2 Africa on nitrogen fixation has never stopped using the fertilizer. “I used to get about 200-300kgs of beans per acre before I discovered Biofix, but my yield increased fourfold to over 1200kgs of beans on the same size of land when I started using this nitrogen fixing fertilizer.”
Biofix eliminates the use of top dressing fertilizers cutting the cost of farming by about 50 percent and depending on the type of crop that is inoculated in the fertilizer, its capable residing about 46 to 200kgs of nitrogen per hectare. This makes it ideal for crop rotation as one can plant maize after harvesting of the legumes, explained Wafullah.
The fertilizer has nitrogen fixing bacteria and as a result, there is every distinct product designed for each legume. We have designed different Biofix for different crops because each crop has different type of nitrogen fixing bacteria however; this is a fact that does not deter the effectiveness of the product explains Wafullah. The product is manufactured through artificially culturing nitrogen-fixing bacteria in a set of controlled conditions.
The mixing of the solution should be done under a shade because the bacteria reacts to heat and they may dry up or die hence making one not able to get the desired results. One mixes water and the right amount of sugar depending on the amount of seeds to be planted and stir well until all the sugar dissolves. The solution is then poured into the seeds and mixed thoroughly until all the seeds are wet enough and using the right type of Biofix for the legume seeds, add the inoculants onto the wet seeds.
Using both hands, mix the legume seeds with the inoculants until all the seeds are uniformly covered with the solution. One should keep the mixture covered and plant as soon as possible in a most soil. The planting should be done in a moist soil due to the fact that the bacteria are living micro-organisms and will need water or moist soil in order to survive. Wafullah advised that to acquire the best results, one should conduct irrigation in the area they intend to plant the legume seeds and in case one cannot access irrigation then it’s vital that planting is done on rainy seasons preferably after it has rained.
The product’s target of the smallholder farmers is reflected in its smaller packaging quantities. Biofix is packages ranges from 10 grams to about 150 grams. The smaller pack of 10 grams retails at about Sh40 and is enough for 1kg of seeds while the larger package of 150 grams retails at about Sh450. Biofix can work well with soils that have other micro nutrients like potassium, phosphorus, and zinc among others.
As a result, Wafullah advise that farmers ought to conduct soil analysis to determine what micronutrients are missing in them. “In case a farmer has found out that micro nutrients are missing in his soils, then it’s advisable for him to purchase a legume pack that has both the Biofix and another fertilizer that has the micronutrients,” explained Wafullah. The smallest legume pack that is enough for about 1kg seeds retails at about Sh200.