For crops to produce high yields, there must be sufficient nutrients in the soil and in proportionate amounts. The soil structure should be suitable for agriculture well-drained and well-aerated.
It should be in the interest of every farmer to keep the soil fertile. The farmer should solicit the aice of the area agricultural services extension officer about the type of fertiliser to be applied and in what amounts after visiting the farmer and taking a professional look at the soil.
For most small-scale farmers, it is not easy to purchase inorganic fertilisers as they tend to be expensive. Yet not all of them are in a position to use organic manure such as animal droppings since the majority of them do not keep livestock in sufficient numbers.
However, fermented animal dung, animal urine and all vegetable matter such as the remains of animal feed or the grass on which animals sleep are an important source of soil nutrients for crops to grow well.
One simple and fairly affordable way to keep soil fertile is the use of green manure which is the burial of plants into the soil.
During land preparation the farmer may bury green vigorously growing plants into the soil which decompose and turn into organic manure for the crops to use. The farmer must however take care not to bury weeds that sprout once they are buried in the ground when they are still fresh.
The farmer must also guard against weeds whose seeds can germinate when buried in the soil.
Agriculturalists recommend burying such material as the left overs of green beans (legumes) and other plants that have a fast growth rate.
Something else farmers can do to sustain soil fertility is to cover the soil surface with mulch to suppress weed growth, to control soil erosion and to prevent excessive loss of water through evaporation.
Mulches should comprise of vegetative material such as banana leaves, grass, eucalyptus tree branches and coffee husks or other such material. When the mulches rot after some time they become organic manure and improve the nutrient content of the soil.
SOURCE: Daily Monitor