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Daily Nation : February 22nd 2014
16 SEEDS OF GOLD February 22, 2014 SATURDAY NATION production IMPROVISATION» EVERYTHING TO MAKE YOUR FARM FERTILE IS EASILY AVAILABLE Go organic for that bumper harvest Organic fertiliser improves soil’s water retention and aeration, reduces soil erosion and boosts biological ac itvity in the soil Mohammed Makokha (right) and his colleague Victor Sibuta harvest spinach on a demonstration plot at Organic Amiran Farmers Kit Training Centre in West Pokot County. JARED NYATAYA | NATION THE RECIPE >> Turn that trash into millions Organic fertilizer is easy to make. BY MONICAH MURIITHI A farmer’s income depends on the yield of his crop. To maximise yield, farmers have to use fertiliser. However, most small scale farmers cannot afford expensive fertiliser for their crop. With the planting season now approaching, it is important farmers re-evaluate their sources of fertiliser. Soil fertility on smallholder farms is almost entirely dependent on locally available resources. Cattle manure, cereal and legume stover, and woodland litter are the commonly used organic fertilisers, but these are rarely applied in sufficient quantities to boost crop yields. The use of high quality organic fertiliser is rarely practised. With the skyrocketing fertiliser prices in the market, many farmers are resorting to improving their organic fertiliser. And you don’t need to look far. Organic material such as weeds, house or hotel kitchen waste, agricultural waste — wheat and maize straw, sugarcane trash, fibre from coconut trees, pigeon pea stalks, dry leaves from crops and trees, among oth- ers are materials readily available to farmers. Vermicompost is the compost produced by the consumption of these organic materials by the earthworms. The worms speed up decomposition and provide nutrient-rich end products. Dr Mariam Mwangi , a senior lecturer at Egerton University’s Department of Crops, Horticulture and Soils, has been involved in research into vermicompost’s effect on specific crop growth, yield and quality. According to Dr Mwangi, vermicompost is a well balanced fertiliser that contains all the nutrients essential for plant growth such as nitrogen, phosphate, potassium, calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc and iron. The procution of vermicompost is easy and if you are still wondering why you should produce this vermicompost, here are more reasons: Vermicompost is an eco-friendly natu- ral fertiliser prepared from biodegradable organic waste and is free from chemical inputs. It improves water retention capacity of soil because of its high organic matter content. It improves soil aeration, texture and tilth, thereby reducing soil compaction. Apart from being cheaper manure has more side benefits than inorganic fertiliser. PHOTO/ WILLLIAM OERI It does not have any adverse effect on soil, plant and the environment. It improves the nutrient status of soil through the addition of both macro-nutrients and micro-nutrients. The on-going research on vermicompost- ing at Egerton University suggests the compost is especially suitable for horticultural crops and the vermi-tea by-product (the liquid collected from the compost during vermicomposting) is highly nutritious. This by-product is used as a top dressing fertiliser. Several horticultural crops have shown a faster maturity rate and higher yields. Continued use of organic fertiliser results in increased soil organic matter, reduced erosion, better water infiltration and aeration, higher soil biological activity as the materials decompose in soil, and increased yields after a year of application. This makes the organic fertiliser more desirable than mineral or inorganic fertiliser. Besides applying the organic fertiliser on farms, the product can be packed and sold commercially, generating income for farmers. With the current high cost of produc- tion on the side of the farmer, leading to squeezed profit margins, organic fertiliser is the way to go. The process takes two to three months depending on the type of organic matter that is being used. Here is how to make vermicompost: The decomposing tank is filled with the organic material and left for 15 to 20 days to allow the heat evolved by the already decomposing material to subside. Between 500 and 700 of selected earthworms are introduced, depending on the amount of the organic material being used. Precaution must taken to ensure proper moisture content and protection of the worms against predators. Depending on the requirements of a farmer, the compost can be made on a continuous basis. When composed in the right manner, approximately 500kg of organic materials can yield about 300kg of vermicompost, making this process highly desirable. It is important for the farmers to use the exotic worms such as the red earthworms (Eisenia foetida), usually referred to as the red wigglers, as they are faster in the decomposition process and can survive in the warm temperatures of the decomposing bin. These earthworms multiply during the decomposition period and can be used for the subsequent vermicomposting process. According to Dr Mwangi, pictured below, the earthworms can be obtained from farmers who are involved in their multiplication. And she should know. For Dr Mwangi has been involved in multiplying the worms in her homestead, which she sells to neighbouring farmers at Sh1000 a kilo. “Worm multiplication is also a viable business,” she says.
February 21st 2014
February 23rd 2014