Fertilizers are the real deal in farming
Mukono within Central Uganda is believed to be naturally fertile thus residents do not like using fertilizers. A few farmers who try to use fertilizer become disappointed when they do not see the expected results. Some even suffer loss of crops, which creates the fear that the use of fertilizers will spoil or destroy their soil.
In all Mefai’s marketing efforts they uphold their adage: “No use without information” thus training is a high priority on their marketing agenda. At the demonstration plots they always train farmers on how to use fertilizers appropriately. In such training sessions they explain Liebig’s law of the minimum to ensure that farmers appreciate the need to provide crops with all essential nutrients.
As a result of one of these training opportunities, one farmer, Joyce Nabukeera who is a tomato grower, chose to follow the shared principles on the appropriate use of fertilizers. She applied the principles on her quarter-acre plot. She boasts that she harvested in the quarter plot 5kg of tomatoes per plant (and an amount of 10MT), as opposed to the control from which nothing was harvested due to bacterial wilt.
Nabukeera used DAP and Fertiplus for basal dressing and then MgSo4, NPK winner, and CAN for top dressing to ensure her crops received all the essential nutrients, including micronutrients. The total cost of production for the quarter acre was 1,250,000 Ugandan shillings (USD 342), and she sold each kilogram of tomatoes at the farm gate for 1,000 Ugandan shillings (USD 0.28). Therefore her total sales were 10,000,000 Ugandan shillings (USD 2,778) over a three-month period.
“This is a turning point in the life cycle of my farming career. I had never thought I could raise 8,750,000 (USD 2,430) as profit from farming, more so in just a quarter acre of a tomato plot. I plan to do an acre next season.” ~ Joyce Nabukeera
Nabukeera has become an opinion leader among her fellow smallholder vegetable growers. She noted that the frequency of sprays also reduced as her crops became more tolerant to diseases than she had experienced before. She was also happy with the early maturity exhibited by the crop.
It was interesting to note the color, weight and Brix of her tomatoes, which were uniformly colored, felt heavy and were sweetish in taste.
James Ssemusu is another beneficiary of the program. He grows maize and tomatoes. Unlike Nabukeera, Ssemusu used to use fertilisers but only urea. He hardly noticed any advantages from using it. This time round he is very happy as he applied the principles of appropriate fertilizer using DAP.
As a result, Ssemusu’s maize exhibited early maturity, which reduced the number of sprays required to protect the plants from the fall armyworm, which attacks maize during its early growth stages. After two sprays, the maize was already too hard for the armyworm. Ssemusu has been able to harvest 32 bags (4MT) of the Longe 8H variety compared to the control plot, which yielded only five bags from an acre.
Cobs are fuller with hardly any aborted ova. Ssemusu is now helping other farmers to improve their use of fertilizers.
With support from AFAP, On 28 August 2020 Mefai Agro Inputs Ltd decided to organize a farmers’ field day in Nsambwe village to share the key learning from Ssemusu’s and Nabukeera’s demo plots. The field day was well attended by both the local community of Nsambwe village and Mukono District local authorities including the head of the Production/Agriculture Department and District Agricultural Officer of Mukono District, Dr Kiwanuka Noah and Mr Mabira Mukasa respectively. They were 40 participants (F-22 & M-18). During the day, training on fertilizer use was offered and a soil-testing demonstration was done using a soil test kit. AFAP supported Mefai with demand creation and the soil test kit. In season 2020A, Mefai Agro Inputs planted two maize varieties (Longe 8H and FH 5160) and two tomato varieties (ANJA F1 and Novella F1) with the support of its host farmers.
With respect to the planting of maize, three different treatments were demonstrated:
- Maize without fertilizer (control)
- Maize with DAP basal dressing and Super Grow top dressing
- Maize with DAP basal dressing and CAN and Super Grow as top dressing
Novella F1 tomato variety performance demonstrated by Joyce Nabukeera supervised by Mefai Agro Inputs Ltd.
Left, Nakatuga Cate (Mefai technical director) showing how the Novella 1 tomato variety performed and, right, how the tomato grew/filled well because it was well fed as evidenced by the brix of her tomatoes.
Mefai Agro Inputs Ltd Team during a field day: left, Nakatuga Cate (technical director) and right, Ssemugabi Joshua (lab technician) demonstrating how soil testing is done.
Mukono District authorities from the production office deliberating during the field day: left, Kiwanuka Noah (head of production) and right, Mabira Mukasa (district agricultural officer).
Performance of different maize varieties (Longe 8H and FH 5160) under different treatments.
Group photo after a successful field day in Nsambwe village organized by Mefai Agro Inputs Ltd.
A welcome poster by the roadside to direct the field-day participants to the venue.