Improving soil nutrients and water management to increase crop yield for enhanced livelihoods of small scale farmers in semi-arid eastern Kenya
Mochoge, B. O.
Danga, B. O.
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Food insecurity in Kenya is on the increase unless appropriate measures are taken. This is because nearly 80% of the land is arid to semi-arid and therefore not favorable for crop production using the current methods of production. The issue is limited nutrient use efficiency and low moisture storage in soils to warrant plant growth. This calls urgently for appropriate technologies to be put in place in order to increase moisture storage in soils and increase nutrient use efficiency to spur food production in semi-arid fragile ecosystems. A study to respond to low moisture content in soils and inefficient use of nutrients is being initiated at Gachoka, semi-arid Eastern Kenya. The study will evaluate moisture storage in soil due to run-off rain water captured in the trapezoidal bunds and how this will impact the availability and uptake of nutrients. Use of manure to increase water retention in soils and to provide mineral N through mineralization, and application of N and P fertilizers to supplement the soil available nutrients for sustainable soil fertility management will be part of the treatments. Plots within the bunds measuring 4.5 m x 4.5 m will be used for treatments and maize and cowpea will be the test crops. Available soil moisture content will be measured using neutron water meter and tensiometers while available plant nutrients (NH4,NO3 and P) in soil and nutrients contents in plants will be analyzed. Treatments will be factorial and randomized in a complete block design. The data will be subjected to analysis of variance and regression. Nutrient use efficiency and gross returns will be calculated. Expected outputs will include increased knowledge on trapezoidal bunds on water storage by researchers and farmers, higher crop yields, general increase of soil productivity and its sustainable management, and training of two MSc students.