Harmonized Fertilizer Recommendations For Optimal Maize Production In Kenya

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Nesbert Mangale
Anne Muriuki
Angela N. Kathuku-Gitonga
James K. Mutegi
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The fundamental importance of agriculture in the development of Kenya’s economy cannot be underscored. Agriculture is the backbone of Kenya’s economy contributing 26% and 27% of the gross domestic product (GDP) annually directly and indirectly respectively. It also accounts for 65% of total exports and provides 18% and 60% of formal and total employment respectively. It is estimated that a 1% increase in the sector results in a corresponding 1.6% GDP growth in the overall economy. Evidence from a broad range of research impact studies show that returns on investment (ROI) from agricultural research in Kenya are two to three times higher than from all the other investments combined. Investments in agricultural research are therefore paramount to economic growth since the benefits it produces are widely and more equitably distributed. However, per capita food production in Kenya has continued to decline in spite of the successful introduction of new crop varieties, associated fertilizer and pesticide packages coupled with excellent research outcomes. Natural disasters (increased incidences of floods and droughts due to climate change), a high incidence of pests and diseases and degradation of the soil resource base among others have been cited as the main reasons for the decline. Degradation of the soil resource base is directly linked to poor land management including land use without installation of appropriate erosion control measures and exportation of nutrients from farms through the crop and indirectly through animal products without adequate replenishment of the removed nutrients (Bationo et al 1997; Sanchez, et al 1997 & Sanchez, 2002) The agricultural sector in Kenya is dominated by smallholder farmers who account for about 75% of the country’s total output. Under smallholder farming systems, soil fertility has been maintained through application of farmyard manure and inclusion of grain legumes into the cropping systems. The rapidly increasing population has put great pressure on land (land holding per household in arable Kenya zones is estimated at less Than 0.5 ha) making farming intensification the only alternative option. One of the most significant policy challenges is to find innovative ways of managing food insecurity and household incomes through improvement in crop germplasm, soil fertility inputs and sound agronomic practices. One of the options is to increase adoption of Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM) in smallholder farming systems. ISFM is defined as farming practices that involve the combined use of inorganic and organic inputs, improved seed or planting materials combined with the knowledge on how to adapt these practices to local conditions so as to maximize the plant nutrient use efficiency while improving crop yields. All inputs need to be managed following sound farming principles
Mangale et. al, 2016.Harmonized fertilizer recommendations for optimal maize production in Kenya