Low Fertilizer Uptake Irks Ugandan Soil Scientists

3959 Views Kitgum, Uganda

In short
Studies are indicating that the countrys soil soils are losing fertility at an alarming rate.

The low uptake of fertilizers among Ugandan farmers is worrying soil scientists at Kawanda based National Agriculture Research Laboratories (NARL).

There is concern that all the regions of the country are losing soil fertility at an alarming rate. Worst affected regions include Central, Western and West Nile while Mt. Elgon region and Northern Uganda are relatively fertile due to young soils and underutilization.

Dr. Cranmer Kawuki Kayizzi, from the Agro Meteorology and Environmental Management Unit at Kawanda says the reduction in crop yield in most of the identified areas is evident enough to show that the soil are no longer fertile as they used to be.

Kayizzi says Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium, the three major plant nutrients required for bumper harvests and nutritious foods are being fast depleted at the rate of 21 Kilograms, 8 Kilograms and 43 Kilograms per hectare per year respectively.


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The scientists say Ugandan soils are infertile by nature except the alluvial soils resulting from volcanic activity around Mt. Elgon area.
Others causes are over cultivation due to population, soil erosion that washes  soil  nutrients to the valleys, Rivers and Lakes.


 Kayizzi says less than five percent of Coffee and banana farmers in Uganda are adding soil fertility through fertilizer applications.


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Christine Alokit is the Uganda Communication and Extension Scientist for Center for Biosciences and Agriculture International (CABI) says small holder farmers in Uganda cite the exorbitant cost of manufactured fertilizer as their biggest limiting factor to  fertilizer application.

Alokit says there is also misinformation related to fertilizer application. She says is common for farmers to say that their land is fertile enough to produce food without fertilizer application.
 
Dr. Kayizzi says Scientists are intervening to avert the crisis by developing an advisory tool for Agriculture extension workers.
He says the tool calculates how much fertilizer a farmer requires to produce bumper harvests on a small acreage of land.

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Fredrick Bbosa is an Agriculture extension worker in Kayunga district who has been using the tool to support farmers to realize the most from their farms.
 
He says he was amazed by the six million shillings profits from an acre of water melon after investing one hundred and twenty thousand shillings on fertilizer.

Bbosa says when integrated with proper farm management practices such as timely planting, weeding, pests and disease control among others, the tool can dramatically deliver food security.

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About the author

Peter Labeja
Peter Labeja has been a practicing journalist for the last 13 years during which he has covered part of the brutal conflict which bedeviled Northern Uganda as well as the painful transition to Peace thereafter. Emerging post conflict issues such as land rights of under privileged widows and orphans, challenges of access to social services in the immediate aftermath of Lord’s Resistance Army conflict in Northern Uganda.

Labeja is now the Northern Uganda Bureau chief in Acholi Sub Region since 2014 - Gulu, Amuru, Nwoya and Omoro districts as well as South Sudan falls within his areas of jurisdiction. He previously worked with The Vision Group for four years.

Labeja’s major career interests are in Climate Change; Agriculture and Environment - natural resources such as Water, Oil and Gas; Transitional Justice; Human Rights, Democracy and Governance as well as South Sudan’s humanitarian crisis. In 2013, Labeja was awarded a prestigious Pan African Journalism Award for excellence in journalism at United Nation’s UNEP headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya for Climate Change and Health Reporting.