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Ask your Agronomist: How to correct acidic soils for better maize production

Friday October 6 2017

Cornelius Kipkorir displays his maize crops in Kipsaiya

Cornelius Kipkorir displays his maize crops in Kipsaiya, Elgeyo-Marakwet. Growing maize in acidic soil environments limits productivity and consequently a farmer’s income. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

Q : It’s maize planting season, and I am a smallholder farmer in Meru, where I am told my soil is acidic. How best can I grow the crop for higher yields?

Simon

Growing maize in an acidic soil environment limits productivity and consequently a farmer’s income.

In general, maize as a crop does not tolerate pH conditions of less than 5.5, preferring an optimal range of 6-7.2.

In acidic soils, the roots of a maize crop suffer impairment from aluminium toxicity, limiting nutrient uptake.

Besides this root damage, acidic soils also negatively affect availability of nutrients.

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Phosphorous, for example, a critical element in enhancing development of a good root structure, is fixed by other minerals in an acid soil, making it unavailable (even as farmers apply fertiliser), and leading to reduced crop production.

All is not lost though even in such acidic soil environments. Farmers are advised to adopt practices that will either amend the soils, or at least not worsen the acidic situation.

Liming the soils is the only effective correction practice, and this can be done progressively over time to ease the financial burden to the farmer.

Secondly, farmers should use more of nitrate-based fertilisers as opposed to the ammonium-based fertilisers, which contribute a lot to the acidification problem.

Balanced nitrate based NPKs containing secondary and micro-nutrients, would therefore be a better alternative for planting as opposed to ammonium-based products.

This would provide the maize crop with a balanced nutrient supply that is critical in ensuring high quality yields.

Yara East Africa is Africa’s leading crop nutrition company, that focuses on growing the yield and profitability of the farmer, by selling crop specific fertilisers and providing correct knowledge and how best to use them.

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

Central Region: Stephen Mburu 0728396204
Upper Rift Valley: Daniel Mui 0702466343.
Eastern: Dennis Nyandaya 0702466372.
Lower Rift Valley: Chris Masira 0798498320.
Western: Eric Okwado 0715484224.

Vitalis Wafula,
East Africa Regional Agronomist, Yara