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     2019 05 21 Broody Bantam Chicken Trimingham 1

    Instead of having three or more chickens brooding chicks for more than one month after hatching, Ignatius Osoro is using a surrogate mother to free the others to return to the cycle of laying eggs.

    Chicks require warmth for the first one month to support the growth of feathers to help in body temperature regulation.

    Commercially, other farmers use bulbs, stoves, lanterns and other sources to supply heat for 24 hours a day to the chicks at this critical stage of growth.

    Given that Osoro’s target is local breeds, he prefers using one of the mothers of the chicks in the brooding process.

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    Currently one of the mothers is taking care of 46 chicks that are less than one month old. They were hatched by three chickens and their age difference is two days.

    “Although my chickens are local and free-range, I feed them on commercial feeds to supplement the little food they pick while moving around.

    “If a mother is freed a day after incubation, she can start laying eggs in about two weeks. If she were to remain in taking care of the chicks, laying of eggs may start after two or three months,” the Kamanga farmer said.

    But the selection of the best mother that can take care of the chicks is based on its history. The current mother hatched 17 out of 23 eggs. It was the best among the three. Previously, it also raised 24 out of 26 chicks it had hatched.

    “This chicken is more than two kilos. It also has the body mass and feathers to generate enough warmth besides the feathers. As the chicks grow, they remain in the brooding cage, which is sealed, but well ventilated to allow for free circulation of air especially at night,” he said.

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    The tightly fenced compound is about 50 feet by 100 feet. But he has more than 40 mature chickens. Apart from the sukuma wiki he has planted for the chickens, he also offers them commercial feeds.

    They lay between 250 and 300 eggs per year, with some being better at laying, hatching and brooding.

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    mansky1600

    By George Munene

    Microsoft has developed the Kenya National Agriculture Platform to help farmers access extension and advisory services. The service will give farmers information from the agriculture ministry, government institutions, and the private agriculture sector.

    Through an agriculture chatbot (#AgriChatBot), farmers will be able to freely access information on pest diagnosis, market prices, soil testing, advice on rearing a variety of crops, agriculture news, weather information, personalized input supply information, and messaging for farmer groups. 

    This will offer data-driven precise farming methods to farmers that will help increase their yields and profitability.

    To access AgriChatBot send the word ‘MENU’ via WhatsApp to ‘0758318589’. Or send ‘MENU’ to the common code ‘40139’ on feature phones.

    The platform which seeks to be a one-stop information hub for farmers will also feature successful farmer stories. 

    Related News: Tukalime: innovative service helping 'telephone farmers' farm & market produce

    The partnership between the multinational tech company and the Ministry of Agriculture will provide smallholder farmers with this information through SMS, WhatsApp, and Telegram.

    “Through partnerships such as the one with Microsoft, we can offer our smallholder farmers valuable services that help them modernize and digitize age-old farming practices increasing productivity and boosting food security for our communities and country,” said Thule Lenneiye, Coordinator of Agriculture Transformation Office in the Ministry of Agriculture.

    This forms part of the technology company’s plan to drive agriculture digitization in Africa to help the sector reach its projected one trillion dollar value by 2030. 

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    Agriculture remains the largest employer for Kenyans, directly and indirectly accounting for 40 per cent of jobs in the overall population and 70 per cent of rural jobs. 

    The sector has however been blighted by marginal access to extension services (21 per cent of farming households access extension services), on and off-farm inefficiency (14 per cent of food is lost post-harvest), lack of traceability, and the proliferation of counterfeit inputs. All issues technology could help streamline.

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    Simple and cheap ways to improve soil fertility and prevent prevalent pests, diseases invasions

    soil tillageFarmers can easily improve their soil fertility and further prevent pests and diseases through rotations, cover cropping and the application of animal and plant materials as opposed to using chemical substances.

    Recent researches show that plant resistance to insects and diseases is linked to optimal, chemical, physical and biological properties of soil.

    According to a 2017 review on Current Status of Soil Contamination in Kenya published by International Journal of Environmental Monitoring and Analysis, the main sources of soil contaminations are anthropogenic activities are among other things synthetic chemical products.

    Some of the main elements that can help reduce pest issues in soil include cleanliness, mulching, and proper cultivation, introduction of different organisms in the soil such as red worms, soil food web and increasing soluble nitrogen levels among others.

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    Research has shown that increasing soluble nitrogen levels in plants can decrease their resistance to pests, resulting in higher pest density and crop damage. For example, increased nitrogen fertilizer rates have been associated with large increases in numbers of aphids and mites.

    In addition to supporting vigorous growth of plants better able to tolerate pest damage, healthy soils also contain many natural enemies of insect pests, including insect predators, pathogenic fungi, and insect-parasitic nematodes.

    Another focus should be on increasing soil organic matter to improve soil structure and to provide food for soil microbes that in turn make nutrients available to plants.

    Farmers should always rotate with cover and green manure crops in order to increase soil organic matter.

    Manure and compost can also be added to supply organic matter and to provide supplemental nutrients.

    Cultivation and tillage can be beneficial because it disrupts the life cycle of insect pests and can expose pests to predators and the elements.

    However, excessive tillage can accelerate the decomposition of soil organic matter and deplete the food source that soil microorganisms depend on, decreasing their ability to disrupt pests. Excessive and untimely tillage can also contribute to soil erosion.

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    According to Oxfarm, dealer in farm inputs, whether organic or synthetic, mulches, can help reduce insect pest problems.

    Plastic mulch is often used to speed early season crop growth that makes plants better able to tolerate insect feeding.

    Reflective mulch repels thrips and aphids and can reduce the incidence of insect transmitted virus diseases in vegetable crops.

    Study has shown that straw mulch can suppress early season pests activity by creating a micro-environment that increases the number of predators like ground beetles, lady beetles, and lacewings. Mulching with straw can also reduce the pests’ ability to locate plants.

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