Zinc + boron = rice?

A 2SCALE partnership with fertilizer manufacturer Toyota Tsusho is helping Kenyan rice farmers increase yields and profits while reducing fertilizer use and preventing environmental damage. The key is new fertilizer formulations that contain secondary and micronutrients such as zinc, boron and copper in addition to the standard NPK.

Field trials were conducted at 15 different locations, comparing different fertilizer formulations and application methods. Yields increased by 30% with a combination of micronutrient-enriched fertilizer and ‘deep placement’, where pellets of fertilizer are inserted into the soil, rather than the normal practice of ‘broadcasting’.

The trials are part of a package of interventions being scaled out in two key production areas: Mwea in central Kenya and Ahero in the western region. Two briquetting machines have been installed, to compact prilled urea into pellets. 2SCALE partner Afritec has developed a new hybrid that gives substantially higher yields than currently available varieties. The hybrid has been officially registered by government authorities.

Higher yields are not the only benefit. Higher production and briquetting technology have created new jobs in farm labor and transportation. Perhaps the biggest beneficiaries are women entrepreneurs, who control the rice trade at local level. The traders say volumes have increased significantly, driving up revenue and improving economies of scale.

Photo: “Fertilizer briquettes (pellets) are placed in the soil, increasing use-efficiency by up to 70% — higher yields with less fertilizer.”

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