FARMERS CAN now collect at least 50 soil samples from different farms, and order a mobile soil testing laboratory.
The mobile soil testing lab, run by SoilCares Ltd, has a truck equipped with equipment for analysing soil samples to determine the nutrient levels, deficiencies, acidity and the general health.
Previously, farmers would take samples to agricultural research centres, and wait for days to get results.
But now, it can be done in just three hours.
“When we receive an order from a group of farmers, we first send an agronomist to teach them how to collect the soil samples,” said Austine Ochieng (above), a soil analyst at the SoilCares Ltd.
A farmer can use a soil auger or a panga to scoop the soil at least 25cm deep. If it is one acre, for example, different small samples can be collected from say 25 areas within the land and mixed together.
All the samples should be just a kilo in total.
The farmer then writes personal details on the soil sample packs, including the location, the crop they intend to plant, the field size and contact information.
The samples are then dried, crushed into powder, and taken for digital analysis.
“We test for acidity, the micro and macro nutrients in the soil, after which we recommend the type of fertiliser to be applied, and for which type of crops,” said Ochieng while exhibiting the mobile soil testing lab at the African Green Revolution Forum in Lusaka, Zambia, recently.
Each sample costs approximately Sh1,300 to test. This includes the fertiliser recommendation and suggestions on the crops that can perform well in the particular area.
David Mbakaya, a soil scientist at the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation, says it is extremely important for one to know their soil health status before applying fertiliser.
“Among farmers, particularly the smallholders, there is a perception that fertiliser automatically improves yields. Soils ought to be tested, and appropriate types of fertilisers applied.”
“Just as a balanced diet is important for our health and well-being, we need a balanced, integrated approach for managing our soils,” noted Dr Bashir Jama, the director for Soil Health Programme at the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa.