Crop Nutrition

Empowering Rice Farmers In Kenya Through 4R Nutrient Stewardship Training

13 June 2024, Kenya: The African Plant Nutrition Institute (APNI) remains committed to helping farmers across Africa sustainably enhance crop productivity, while at the same time improving soil health through its pioneering 4R Nutrient Stewardship Framework that seeks to ensure the use of the Right Source of nutrients, applied at the Right Rate, at the Right Time, and in the Right Place (4Rs). In a significant move towards this goal, APNI partnered with the International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC) under the 2SCALE project’s partnership with the Mwea Rice Growers Multipurpose Cooperative Society (MRGM) to train select rice farmers and extension agents in the Mwea region of Kenya. This training was part of the deliverables under a six-month 4R pilot project designed to demonstrate the value the 4R framework can contribute towards sustainable rice production in intensive smallholder irrigation systems. Established in 1967, MRGM boasts an impressive membership of 8,000 rice growers within the Mwea rice scheme. This impressive membership accounts for 60% of the irrigated rice cultivation area in Kenya and provides 80% of the national rice production.

The primary objectives of the training were to introduce rice farmers to the principles of 4R NutrientStewardship, provide practical guidance for optimizing nutrient management, and equip farmers with relevant knowledge for local implementation of 4R practices. Implementation of 4R nutrient management practices coupled with good agronomic practices is expected promote sustainable agricultural practices that increase rice yields, improve farmer incomes, improve fertilizer use efficiency, and while fostering environmental conservation.

The training sessions, led by APNI’s Dr. Esther Mugi and Dr. Samuel Njoroge, were crafted around the core principles of 4R Nutrient Stewardship, and tailored to the specific needs and local realities of rice farmers in Mwea, aiming to equip them with essential knowledge and practical techniques to enhance their farming practices and embrace sustainability.

“As we promote the 4R principles, we’re not only boosting farmers’ incomes through enhanced crop production but also curbing production costs by optimizing fertilizer application. This holistic approach helps steer clear of nutrient under or over application, thus significantly reducing environmental harm by minimizing nutrient mining or losses of applied nutrients.” — Dr. SamuelNjoroge, APNI Scientist.

A diverse group of 197 individuals, including extension agents, researchers, agronomists, farmers, and agro-dealers, participated in the training. The program marked a significant milestone in the promotion of sustainable agricultural practices in the region, culminating in the awarding of certificates to the participants.

Detailed discussions covered essential plant nutrients, the role of good plant nutrition in achieving high crop yields, and the relationship between plant nutrient removal and soil fertility depletion. Participants were also guided on identifying the right source of nutrients and best practices for right-rate application. This included understanding different types of fertilizers, interpreting the nutrient contents of different fertilizers, and appropriate fertilizer sources for rice production.

The concept of right-rate application was stressed, with explanations on proper fertilizer application rates based on crop needs and soil conditions. Strategies for calculating and adjusting fertilizer rates to avoid over or under-application were also discussed, along with options for assessing soil nutrient supply capacity.

Furthermore, participants learned about timing fertilizer applications to align with crop nutrient uptake requirements and methods to limit soil nutrient losses. Various fertilizer placement methods were explored, including recommended practices for rice cultivation, strategies for minimizing nutrient losses, and maximizing uptake efficiency.

The training concluded with an overview of different rice cultivars commonly grown in the Mwea region and specific nutrient needs for each variety. Overall, the program provided participants with a wealth of practical advice and actionable insights to enhance their farming practices and promote sustainable agricultural development in the region.

“The guidance provided by Dr. Esther Mugi and Dr. Samuel Njoroge was invaluable. Learning about the 4R Nutrient Stewardship principles has empowered me to make informed decisions about nutrient management on my farm, and will ultimately lead to improved yields and sustainability.” — Monicah Wanjiru, Young Rice Farmer from Mwea.

The success of the 4R Nutrient Stewardship training in Mwea underscores the significant impact of targeted agricultural education and sustainable practices. By equipping farmers with the knowledge and tools to optimize nutrient management, APNI and its partners are paving the way for a more sustainable and productive agricultural future in Africa. This initiative not only enhances crop yields and farmer incomes but also promotes environmental stewardship, ensuring a healthier planet for future generations.

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