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USAID launch project combating soil acidity to improve maize yields

Lime application Nyamira
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By George Munene

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through the Feed the Future Advancing Local Leadership, Innovation and Networks (ALL-IN) programme is working with Egerton University’s Tegemeo Institute of Agricultural Policy and Development to combat soil acidity which eats into over 30 per cent of Kenya’s maize yields. 

According to the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute(KARI), acidic soils have a pH value of less than 7.0  and cover 13 per cent (7.5 million hectares) of Kenya’s farmland. 

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While acidic soils are essential in the production of crops that do well in soils with pH values below 5.5 such as coffee, tea, chillies, sweet and irish potatoes they hinder maize production in the country’s grain hubs of Trans Nzoia, Bungoma, Kakamega, and Uasin Gishu counties. Maize has a mild tolerance for acidity and prefers soils with 5.5-6.0 pH values.

“The project’s goal is to address the high cost of soil management by involving stakeholders in the entire value chain of fertilizers and lime,” said Dr John Olwande at Egerton’s Njoro Main Campus during its launch.

The initiative will integrate over 4,000 smallholder farmers in the four counties, as well as researchers, financial institutions, lime and fertilizer companies, agro-dealers, civil society organizations, extension workers, in planning ways of implementing measures aimed at solving the problem of high acidity in soils.

*Experts and stakeholders will help build evidence on practical ways to encourage farmers to update their knowledge about the condition of their soils and encourage them to apply appropriate soil management practices,” Olwande outlined 

By curbing the effects of soil acidity on crop production, the results of the project will provide guidance on promoting effective soil management for sustainable agricultural productivity growth in Kenya and across Sub-Saharan Africa.

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Liming is the most commonly employed method of reducing soil acidity. 

Soils are made highly acidic by leaching of nutrients due to abundant rains, continuous cultivation and wrong application of nitrogen fertilizers, which break down the soil forming acidic compounds.

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