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Ask your agronomist: What to consider when making fertiliser programme

Q : Last week you spoke about the importance of micronutrients in a fertiliser programme. Thank you for the piece as it was very insightful. However, my question is, how do I make a fertiliser programme for my farm?
Mshimba, Taita

To maximise production, and minimise wastage and costs, a fertiliser programme should take into account all factors whether they are environmental, sustainability, production ambitions, or desires of the end market.

This needs to be tailored to suit the specific season and crop situations.

Developing a fertiliser programme

While there are many factors to consider, I believe that no programme can be developed without a sound understanding of the crop’s nutritional requirements.

A proper programme needs reliable data in the form of soil and leaf tissue analysis, crop type, yield expectations and targets, and local farm knowledge.

Factors to consider

– The crop to be grown and the variety or cultivar selected.

– The yield potential of the crop.

– The expected nutrient removal.

– Nutrient uptake patterns of the crop.

– Expected nutrient balance issues in the crop.

– The previous season’s crop, its yield and nutrient removal.

– Soil type, and its characteristics which might affect the growth of the crop.

– Leaf analysis.

-Average rainfall of the area, or irrigation type.

– Desired market for the crop.

Many farmers are unaware of nutrient deficiencies that their crops exhibit, and it is important to consult your local Yara agronomist.

Soil and leaf analysis helps identify ‘hidden hunger’ where plants are already suffering from lack of nutrients before visual symptoms become noticeable.

Agronomists will consider this and other factors and include it in the decision-making process when it comes to fertiliser programme.

In some cases, nutrients need to be built-up in the soil reserves, and in other cases the soil needs maintenance applications to ensure crops requirements are met in times of peak demand.

Lastly, it is important to remember that as lack of one nutrient is corrected, others may become unavailable.

Correct the major deficiencies in the current programme first, then make adjustments over time.

For crop specific fertiliser recommendations, please consult the following agronomists in your area:

Western and Nyanza, Daniel Mui, 0702466343.

Rift Valley, Dennis Nyandaya, 0702466372.

Central, Robert Ngatia, 0702466318.

Peter Wekesa, Senior Agronomist, Yara

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