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    By George Munene

    The Government has availed Ksh 3.55 Billion, to subsidize 1.42 million 50 kg bags (71,000 Mt) of fertilizer at a maximum price of Sh3,500 per 50kg bag down from Sh6,500, for growing food crops during the coming short rains season. 


    The fertilizers will be availed through the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) Depots and Sub-depots country-wide, effective 19th September 2022.


    Individual farmers will be entitled to a maximum of 100 50-kilogram bags of fertilizer.


    The Ministry of Agriculture is appealing to farmers to visit the nearest NCPB depot or sub-depot, where a 50 kg bag of DAP will sell at Ksh3,500, CAN at Ksh 2,875, UREA at Ksh 3,500, NPK at Ksh 3,275, MOP Ksh 1,775 and Sulphate of Ammonia at Ksh 2,220.

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    This follows a directive by President William Ruto in his inauguration Speech on Tuesday 13th September 2022 where he directed that 1.4 million bags of fertilizer be availed to farmers as part of the Government’s interventions to address the high cost of living.


    The fertiliser will be disbursed through NCPB depots to ensure efficient delivery and effective control mechanisms said Crops Development and Agricultural Research PS Francis Owino.

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    Yellow Maize

    In avoiding losses to lethal necrosis and other diseases, Kisii County farmer Alfred Ombuna has resorted to growing yellow maize, which matures in four months - more than two months earlier than hybrid varieties.

    Yellow maize matures within four months. Hybrid maize matures in six to eight months depending on the variety and the region. Cold regions like Nyahururu, maize may take up to eight months to harvest.

    "When large tracks of maize are of the same age, spread of pests and diseases from one field to the next one is easy. But for me, I have overcome the lethal necrosis by growing this yellow maize. By the time of the attack in neighbouring fields, I am already harvesting," he said during the 2017 Kisii Agricultural Society of Kenya Show.

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    Lethal necrosis is a viral disease that causes drying of maize leaves and stalks. In most cases, it strikes a few weeks ahead of flowering. In the past four years, the disease has ravaged thousands of acres of maize in most parts of Kenya including, Nyanza, Western, Rift Valley and Central. This has contributed to the cyclic hunger crisis that the country has been having.

    In 2013, the farmer lost one acre of maize to the disease. That was after a long wait. But it was from the loss that he learnt that having a quick maturing variety amid slowly growing peers may help in escaping the losses.

    That is what he has been doing since 2014.

    Although the output is lower than the hybrid, the Kiogoro village farmer is happy to be harvesting more than 20bags in two seasons a year.

    The yellow maize, which is informally called Katumani, also escapes the pangs of drought because of the quick maturity.

    Maize requires more rain for most of its life. When it is young, water is essential for vigorous growth while at flowering the same is key for formation and filling of cobs.

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    Farmers growing traditional crops like maize side by side with legumes are recording more than double increase in yields and cutting down on fertilizer spend as legumes fertilize the soils at 20 percent more than synthetic fertilizers.

    While farmers have long intercropped legumes like beans, cowpeas, groundnuts and pigeon peas with maize and millet, it is only recently that science recognized the huge benefits these legumes have on soil fertility and ultimately faster and healthier maturity of crops.

    READ ALSO: Conservation agriculture, intercropping breathes new life to Western soils

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    Scientists estimate that up to two billion dollars worth of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium is lost from African soil each year, even as farmers invest a fortune in syntheticfertilizers. The three nutrients are important in plant growth.

    However farmers who have unknowingly planted legumes record low or no use of commercial fertilizers as plants flourish. “What these legumes do is that they fix nitrogen in the soil increasing the soil's fertility for a long time,” says Wendo Kimakia a scientist actively involved in advocating for use of legumes to fertilize soil.

    The legumes can fix the nitrogen to last upto 4 planting seasons without the soil fertility diminishing something artificial fertilizers would never achieve. “Farmers fertilize their soil every planting season with commercial fertilizers and the soils get tired of this. Not forgetting the other chemicals that are harmful to the soil that come with these fertilizers,” added Kimakia.

    For farmers to reap maximum benefits from the the transformatory farming process now known as doubled-up legume perennial pigeon-peas along with annual leg¬umes such as soya beans or groundnuts are first planted before any crops and allowed to mature to harvesting. After harvesting, farmers plant other crops like maize in or beside the rows of pigeon peas and then harvest both.

    Pigeon pea for example, not only uses its deep roots to fertilize the soil but its shrubby nature allows it to shed leaves when its sunny, with the high protein leaves falling next to the crops increasing the fertility of the soil a large shrub, adds nutrients to the soil, but can later be used for fuel and fodder. Some parts are edible.

    Scientists are using Milkah Kienjeku a farmer in Naivasha to convert doubting Thomases to these cheap way of growing crops. Milkah a widow taking care of 6 grandchildren has never known the woes of erratic fertilizer prices in her 15 years of farming. Believing that her land was blessed by ancestors she only tilled it and planted the crops without adding anything.

    Unknowing to her, the groundnut trees that stand in her one acre piece of land that she inherited from her father as the only child, has been responsible for the impressive yields. She harvests over 20 bags of maize, 10 bags of beans and 10bags of groundnuts a number inconceivable in her village which has been struggling with tired soils due to overplanting. Villagers have drawn two conclusion. She is using dark forces to grow her booming maize. “It has been hard because even I couldnt understand why my maize was doing so well as other farmers struggled. I have won huge enemies,” she said.

    Enemies aside,the proceeds from the bumper harvest has seen her educate her children to university level, bought basic farming machinery and opened a posho mill that has picked up so fast. When scientists in the area studied her farm for over 3 months they found the answers in the swaying groundnut trees. “We tried various theories and assumptions until we deeply studied the groundnuts trees and realized they were the reason for the soil fertility.

    We introduced other legumes like soya beans and results came out impressively. We have launched a massive awareness campaign among fellow farmers to reverse the sorry state of tired soils in the area,” said Joshua Njeru a scientist in the area.

    As population number soars to unprecedented levels, rising at about 10 percent yearly in Kenya, and with the tragedy of the unpredictable fertilizer prices, scientists now say the sure bet to sustained food security in the country and region lies in farmers producing a lot with little. “If they can cut spending on fertilizer which takes much of the planting expense and manage to harvest more then we have no problem with food security. Legumes offer one such option,”Njeru said.

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