Researchers to fix soil-fertiliser mismatch

Researchers are testing soil samples in different districts of the country to find ways of supplying farmers with matching fertilisers, officials announced.
A worker lifts a bag of fertilisers in one of the stores in Gikondo. Timothy Kisambira.
A worker lifts a bag of fertilisers in one of the stores in Gikondo. Timothy Kisambira.

Researchers are testing soil samples in different districts of the country to find ways of supplying farmers with matching fertilisers, officials announced.

The testing follow concerns which have previously been raised over the application of the same fertilisers on all types of soil in the country.

Farmers, who are the main agriculture stakeholders argue that this may have adverse effects on soil and crop yields.

Testing soil samples for all marshlands for rice cultivation are due to be completed this week, and the results will be released in about two weeks, according to the management of a local fertiliser blending factory.

Soil tests have been made in about 150 sites, three in each of 30 districts of the country, and about 3,000 sites are expected to be sampled, says Alfred Nkubiri, the Managing Director of fertilizer blending factory ENAS Ltd.

The testing is being done by the fertiliser blending company in partnership with International Fertiliser Development Centre (IFDC), and the Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB).

The factory which started operations in 2016, Nkubiri said, has capacity to produce about 40 tonnes of blended fertilisers per hour.

Peter Gakuru, is Irish potato farmer in Musanze and Burera districts.

He told The New Times that, in 2016, he took samples of soil from his land to the fertiliser blending factory based in Kigali.

He was applying NPK 17,17, 17 , a compound fertiliser comprised primarily of the three primary nutrients namely Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium.

Gakuru said that after the soil assessment, technicians recommended he uses blended fertilisers based on the needs of his soil, which he said, once implemented, helped increase by half his previous potato production.

“I could barely harvest 10 tonnes of Irish potatoes per hectare per season when I was using the fertiliser under the old formulation, but I harvested five to seven tonnes more thanks to the use of the fertiliser blended under the new formula,” he said.

A kilogramme of the locally blended fertiliser costs Rwf520, without government subsidies applied for imported fertilisers blended abroad.

About 30 tonnes of fertilisers are applied per hectare in Rwanda, while the level is at about 250 tonnes in America, meaning there is need of more fertilisers to increase yield per farmland, according to the Minister for Agriculture and Animal Resources, Dr Gerardine Mukeshimana.

Speaking on Tuesday while visiting the fertiliser blending factory, and fertiliser traders, the Minister of State for agriculture, Fulgence Nsengiyumva stressed the importance of blending fertilisers in the country, saying it takes into consideration the needs of different types of soil.

“The fertilisers that the company produce are based on soil tests to ensure for instance that they meet the needs of soil where tea is grown. This is an initiative that we support, and it can address challenges of delayed inputs that farmers have been facing,” he said.

Shakil B. Shaikh, Business Head Rwanda of fertiliser trading company ETG Inputs Lt told The New Times that fertilisers present potential business opportunities in Rwanda though the demand is still low.

The company trades between 4,000 to 5,000 tonnes of fertilisers including DAP, NPK, and urea per season (six months).

“The major thing is to improve farmers’ knowledge regarding the use of fertilisers and what benefits they are going to work out,” he said.

According to figures from Rwanda Agriculture Board, on average, about Rwf25 billion is spent on seeds and fertilisers annually, of which Rwf10 billion is subsidy. Farmers cover the remaining part of the expenditure.

Up to 33,000 tonnes of fertilisers are used every year, while the target is to use 45,000 tonnes of fertilisers in the financial year 2017/2018, RAB statistics show.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

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