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Meru coffee farmer doubles yield with low-cost soil test

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A Meru coffee farmer has doubled his yield by taking a low-cost soil test. 

The Sh1,500 test which measures soil nutrients and soil pH has enabled him to increase his coffee output per tree by four kilograms per tree by adjusting his soil’s pH.

“A bag of cherries from my trees that weighed 70 kilograms two years ago now weighs 90-95kg. I previously harvested three to four kilos a tree, today I’m doing eight kilos for each tree,” explained Paul Muthuiya, a coffee farmer in Meru.

Soil pH is one of the key determinants of crop yield with its change reducing crop yields by as much as 25 per cent.

Paul who was previously unaware of the value of knowing his soil’s pH initially learned of the concept and its effect from a private agrochemical extension officer. Since then he said, he has not stopped researching on it. 

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“I took a basic Sh1,500 soil test from a lab in town and learned that my soil pH was below 5 which is considered to be too acidic. This meant that my trees could not properly feed on all the manure, fertilisers, and water I was spending so much money on,” he explained

Coffee prefers to grow in soil in which water can easily flow through and have a pH of 5.2- 6.3.

These ideal pH levels not only enable the plant to more easily and quickly take up all the key nutrients, but it also means that the cherries are less affected by coffee pests and diseases.

To reverse his soil pH Paul applies mineral soil conditioners (MSCs) to the soil around every one of his trees monthly. He coupled this with Nano-Ag– an organic fertiliser that is mixed and ‘woken up’ by water to produce billions of small microorganisms that work to rectify and build the soil.

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Despite 63 per cent of Kenyan land that is suited to agriculture being acidic less than 15 per cent of farmers have ever had their soil tested. 

Most of these acidic soils are found in the country’s bread baskets, Central, Western, Rift Valley, and parts of Eastern Kenya. This creates an impediment to Kenya becoming food secure as well as not rewarding farmers with a yield that is commensurate to their input and hard work.

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