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Fertilizer Technologies for Rice

Small-scale rice farmers in Kirinyaga County in Kenya are using new fertilizer technologies to increase yields by up to 50% while using one-third less fertilizer. The technology ‘package’ introduced by 2SCALE has two components. First, a specially formulated fertilizer blend that contains micronutrients such as magnesium, zinc and boron in addition to the standard NPK. Second, ‘deep placement’ application, where briquettes (pellets) of fertilizer are inserted into the soil rather than the usual practice of broadcasting. Deep placement reduces fertilizer losses by two-thirds, ensuring that nutrients remain in the root zone, available to plants, for much longer. Another innovation is slow-release fertilizer, which needs to be applied only once, at planting, compared to the usual two applications – substantially reducing labor costs.

The key partner is the Mwea Rice Growers Cooperative, whose 3,000 members produce 60% of Kenya’s rice. Other partners include government agencies (the Kirinyaga County department of agriculture and the National Irrigation Board) and Toyota Tsusho Fertilizer Africa, which provides the new fertilizer blend.

The new blend was field-tested last season and is now ready to roll. A briquetting machine has been imported, and is being installed at the cooperative. The machine converts standard fertilizer (which comes in powder form) into briquettes. In addition, more than 200 farmers have acquired easy-to-use fertilizer applicators that significantly reduce the time and labor required for deep placement. The cost of the applicators is being shared between 2SCALE and the cooperative.

Fifteen demonstration sites have been established, with plots of regular and improved fertilizers grown side by side for comparison. A series of field days at these sites in November and December, attracted more than 500 farmers (including 190 women). Twenty members of the cooperative visited a rice scheme in Western Kenya where 2SCALE clusters are using the same technologies. A two-month training program, launched in December, will teach local technicians how to operate and maintain the briquetting machine.

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