Soil testing in Kenya:
I have a pointed question to ask you.
“When was the last time you did a soil test on your farm?”
Whenever I ask farmers this question, I get blank stares.
Many of them admit they never done a soil test at all.
That’s why I suppose crop yields in many Kenyan farms decrease with each passing season.
And this is a big problem.
It’s almost becoming impossible to earn a living from farming…
All courtesy of reduced farm yields.
A farm that is capable of giving 60 bags of maize an acre gives only 5 bags.
A bean farm that should give 10-15 bags of beans per acre gives 2.
If farmers know the condition of their soil through regular soil testing… things would be much better.
Each Crop Cycle Removes Massive Soil nutrients that Need Replenishment
You see, whenever you grow any crop—whether maize, beans, sugarcane, cabbage, wheat etc.
These crops remove nutrients from the soil like potassium, magnesium, nitrogen, among others.
As you grow crops season to season, soil nutrients get depleted through crop use.
Do you know what this means?
To maintain or increase your yields, you have to replenish the lost/depleted minerals.
That’s where inputs like manure, fertilizers come in.
The problem is, without a soil test you won’t know the type and nutrients to add.
So that’s where a soil test comes in.
Conducting a soil test in Kenya will help you:
- Lower costs of production through reduced crop nutrition inputs like fertilizer and labor.
- Better understand the soil condition, thus better equipped in soil improvement planning.
- Be able to use precise amounts of fertilizer,
- Prevent soil degradation
Soil Testing Process (How to Start)
- Identify a reliable soil testing facility.
Personally I would recommend Crop nuts Kenya.
This company has a long history of soil testing in Kenya.
The amazing thing about this company that sets them apart from others is that they have agents all over Kenya.
By leveraging on them, they can visit farms in almost every part of Kenya to take soil samples and to advise you without additional cost.
All you’ll need to pay is the soil testing fee.
- Arrange to have the money required for the test.
Crop nuts do two types of soil test
Basic soil test that costs Ksh 2,500
Comprehensive soil test that costs Ksh 5,000.
I would recommend that you go for the comprehensive soil test than the basic test.
- Collect soil samples for testing in a soil laboratory.
This article does a great job at explaining how to collect a soil sample than I could possibly do.
Instead of rehashing that info here, and making this blogpost long, please check it out for details.
If you use Crop nuts Kenya agents, you won’t have to worry about this step.
They will do it for you for free.
Weigh at least 1 Kilo of the collected soil sample and put it in a suitable packaging bag.
Clearly label the soil sample indicating:
- Your name,
- Farm name,
- Contact address,
- Farm size,
- Date of sample collection.
Next is to insert this packaged soil sample into another packaging bag.
The outer bag should have the name and the destination address of the soil lab.
After you do this, send it to the soil testing laboratory along with the soil testing fee.
Most soil testing labs charge between Ksh 2,500 to Ksh for soil tests.
- Wait to be notified of soil test outcome.
This should take no more than a week.
It could take less time.
Nevertheless, the time it will take is dependent on the volume of the soil tests the laboratory is doing.
If they have fewer samples, the results would arrive sooner.
Once you receive the soil testing results, use them to make the right decisions.
When armed with the results, you should be able to know the level of fertilizer you need,
The PH of your soil if it is in the range required by your crops
Here below is a sample result of the basic Soil test conducted by one of the laboratories in Kenya.
Sample of a Basic Soil Test Conducted by a Soil testing laboratory In Kenya
How to Interpret Soil Test Results Like a Pro
Interpreting soil test results can be a little tricky, but here are the general steps you can follow:
- Determine the nutrients that are deficient or in excess.
Look for the nutrient levels in the soil test report.
This are usually expressed in parts per million (ppm) or pounds per acre (lbs/ac).
Compare these levels to the recommended levels for the type of plant you are growing.
If the levels are below the recommended range, the nutrient is deficient and needs to be added.
If they are above the recommended range, the nutrient is in excess and should not be added.
- Choose the appropriate fertilizer
Based on the nutrients that are deficient, select a fertilizer that contains the required nutrients. Fertilizers are typically labeled with three numbers.
These numbers indicate the percentage of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium they contain.
For example, a 10-10-10 fertilizer contains 10% nitrogen, 10% phosphorus, and 10% potassium.
Choose a fertilizer that contains the deficient nutrient(s).
It should be appropriate for the type of plant you are growing.
- Calculate the fertilizer application rate
Based on the soil test report and the fertilizer you have selected; calculate the amount of fertilizer you need to provide the necessary nutrients.
You can use free online fertilizer calculators here.
Alternatively, you can or consult with your local agriculture extension office for assistance in determining the appropriate application rate.
- Apply the fertilizer
Once you have determined the appropriate fertilizer application rate, apply the fertilizer evenly over the soil surface and mix it into the soil.
Be careful not to over-apply the fertilizer, as this can cause nutrient imbalances and harm the plants.
Re-test the soil
I recommend that you to re-test the soil every 2 years to monitor nutrient levels and adjust fertilizer application rates as needed.
It is important to note that interpreting soil test results and applying fertilizers correctly can have a significant impact on plant growth and productivity.
Therefore, I recommend that you consult with a professional or your local agriculture extension office if you are uncertain about any aspect of soil testing and fertilizer application.
Watch Video on How to Calculate The Fertilizer Requirements for Your farm
Once you receive the results What are the next steps?
- Ask yourself which crop do I want to grow. Each crop has its own nutrient requirements to produce amazing yields.
- So how do you know the nutrient requirements for the crop you want to grow? Visit this website here. Navigate to the crop guide tab. You’ll get information about a crop fertilizer needs per hectare.
- Calculate the amount of fertilizer you need per Ha. Doing this math is not difficult. It is quite straightforward. To equip yourself with knowledge on how to do fertilizer calculations, watch the video below.
That’s it about soil testing in Kenya. What are your thoughts on this?
Share them in the comments section below.