A boost in crop harvest is expected in Tharaka-Nithi County following the introduction of high-tech soil scanners by Chuka University.
The gadgets, whose services will be free of charge for the next two years, provide on-the-spot soil analysis and fertiliser recommendations, enabling growers to know what to do to boost fertility.
They are able to analyse the content of nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, water and organic matter in soils in less than five minutes.
The scanner is equipped with a small near infrared sensor and a meter. It utilises a bluetooth connection through which the scanned data is transferred via a smartphone App to Global Soil Database, consisting of thousands of soil analyses.
Speaking at Mwanga chief’s camp in Chuka Sub-County yesterday during launch of the gadgets, Chuka University Vice Chancellor, Prof Erastus Njoka, said with the help of the scanners and complementary training, the region is expected to improve food security. “Our farmers will get the free service for two years, after which they will be required to pay about Sh1,000 for the analysis,” said Prof Njoka.
The don asked farmers to embrace the new technology to boost productivity.
On average, a soil scanner costs Sh400,000 and requires an annual licence of Sh225,000.
At the same time, Prof Njoka said there was need to increase existing irrigation acreage to mitigate climate change, which has had adverse effects on agriculture, leading to hunger almost every year.
“We need to embrace irrigated farming as it’s no longer possible to rely on natural rain because of the climatic changes that have brought about unpredictable weather patterns,” he said.
He said the university had partnered with the Israeli government to start a Sh23 million irrigation project on its 500-acre farm in Kairini that will also act as a regional model.
The farm will also be used for agricultural research by both students and private research firms.