As the country prepares itself to get the 68% of small holder farmers from subsistence to commercial farming for increased house income and reduction of poverty levels, farmers will have to embrace the use of fertilizers to rejuvenate the soils that have since lost fertility.
According to the National Fertiliser Policy document of 2016, Uganda loses approximately 80kg of nutrient per hectare per year.
The losses occur through soil erosion and nutrient export through harvested crop biomass like beak stalks, maize stovers among others.
Of the estimated loss of 80kg of nutrients per hectare per year, the policy document adds that farmers are adding only between 1-1.5 kg, making Uganda the least in fertiliser use almost in the whole world.
And yet, according to the Abuja Declaration on fertiliser in 2006, African countries, including Uganda, must apply at least 50kg of nutrients per hectare by 2015 to attain and sustain the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) target of 6% annual growth in the agricultural sector.
Seven years down the road, fertiliser use in Uganda is still low, at 3.3kg per hectare, making it hard for Uganda to achieve the target.
The low usage has been made worse with the recent increase in fertilizer prices following the wars in Ukraine and Russia, coupled with effects of COVID-19, like suspension of production but also movement to prevent the spread of the virus, that led to the death of scores of people.
Innovations to bypass high cost of fertilisers
To remain in production, manufacturing companies, working with both nucleus and outgrowers like Kinyara Sugar have produced their own biofertilisers to avail fertilisers cheaply to their farmers.
According to Isaac Tumuhairwe, the lab technician at Kinyara Sugar in Masindi, apart from addressing the high cost of fertilisers, they are also conserving the environment through the production of organic fertilisers.
He explained that their innovation was informed by a research they conducted on their soils, that showed the need for additional fertilisers for the sugarcanes to yield as expected hence the innovation of biofertilisers.
The fertilisers are being produced using bacteria that are in the soil like those that speed up the fixation of nitrogen, potassium. These were extracted taken to the lab in order to multiply them, before processing, packaging and now for use and sale
The biofertilsiers not only work on sugarcane but other crops, including soybean, maize, beans and cereals, among others.
For sugarcane, he explained that with the application of the fertilisers, a farmer is assured of an increment of 10 tonnes, of which a tonne on average goes for sh140,000.
“I can confidently tell you that when you apply these fertilisers, one is assured of an additional 10 tonnes per hectare, and if you are farmers and their out growers, a ton of canes goes for around 180,000 so an increment of ten tons per hectare means good money.
“For one hectare, one must apply four types of biofertilisers, which are packaged in a one-liter bottle. the four liters combined can mix 200 liters of water and then spraying starts.
“And when spraying, it is advisable to spray when the crop is at knee height but also spraying must targeted to the root zone for best results. besides this fertilizer mixture is applied once in a cropping season,” Tumuhairwe added.
The above are some of the innovations that manufacturers have embraced in order to remain in production as per the theme this year’s 28th International Trade Fair taking place at the UMA Showgrounds.