Experts warn low soil testing in Western Kenya leading to low crop yields
Experts from the Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organisation (KALRO) have raised alarm over low levels of soil testing in Western Kenya, which is leading to dwindling crop yields for farmers in the region.
Rising soil acidity is also becoming a significant issue that is causing heavy damage to crop yields, which are decreasing season by season.
According to Dr Mary Koech, a research scientist at KALRO, farmers in Western Kenya have been losing nutrients due to the continuous cultivation of one crop, leading to the mining of nutrients from the soil.
The decline in yields across the region is said to be a clear indication that most farms in Bungoma have lost nutrients.
Koech has called on farmers in the region to conduct frequent soil testing to determine the nutrient status of their soil, which would help guide fertiliser application.
He has also urged farmers to practice rotational farming to avoid depleting soil nutrients and to use post-harvest management technologies to prevent store pests from invading their farm produce.
“Many farmers visit our offices with the aim of performing soil testing on their farms, but give up along the way. They only know about soil pH, but overall soil health includes chemical, physical, and biological aspects,” said Koech.
Judy Odongo, Deputy Chief of the Party for Kenya Crops and Dairy Market Systems Activity highlighted the importance of soil testing, saying that it is an integral part of farming to fight hunger.
“Western region is one of the places where farmers have been practicing monocropping. Let us change and focus on agribusiness,” she added.
Farmers are also being advised to plant maize varieties that are best suited for their geographical regions.
It is important to isolate a small portion of land before trying a new variety to observe how it grows before proceeding to large-scale production.
“Before adopting any new seed variety, it is important that farmers isolate a small portion of land, plant the variety, and observe its characteristics. When you have established that the variety is good, proceed to large-scale production,” Dr Koech advised.
Farmers are also encouraged to seek advice from extension officers, agricultural or research institutions before buying any maize seed.
They should also avoid relying on seed stockists to sell them the best maize varieties.