Crop Nutrition

Project Update: NUTCAT Post Harvest Field Day Provides Convincing Results For Rice Farmers In Tanzania

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31 May 2024, Tanzania: Locally referred to as a “brown field day” due to its scheduling at the physiological maturity of the crop just prior to harvest, NUTCAT (Nutrient Catalyzed Agricultural Transformation) project partners organized this educational event to give rice farmers in Tanzania the best opportunity to observe crop growth, assess progress, and learn how a more precise way of rice farming can be adopted on their farms.

Project partner, the Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute (TARI)-Kihinga held this co-learning day in Kasula district within the Titye Rice Irrigation Scheme in Kigoma province. The event attracted farmers and agricultural researchers from Kasulu and neighbouring Kakonko district, where NUTCAT is centered. The day was well attended with 553 participants (278 female and 275 male). The Titye Rice Irrigation scheme comprises of approximately 700 hectares. During his address to participants, Dr. Filson Kagimbo, the Center Director at TARI-Kihinga explained to participants the NUTCAT-Tanzania project is funded by APNI to be a collaborative research program focused on precision crop management practices, and it is part of a pan-African study also implemented in a similar manner in Kenya, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Togo, Nigeria, Senegal, Morocco and Tunisia.

Participants had the opportunity to visit two farms within the scheme, owned by Mr. Daudi Martin Mubingo and Mr. Nicholas Frederick, who each explained the simple design of a NUTCAT project. Each farmer establishes a single experimental plot of approximately 2 acres that is divided into two sub-plots of approximately 1 acre. The sub-plots each host two treatments comprising of Optimized Treatment (OT) and Farmer’s Practice (FP). The OT follows a combination of practices that are targeted towards attainable yield and is researcher-managed with an emphasizes on precision nutrient management and good crop agronomy. The FP refers to the normal practices followed by the farmer, without intervention of researchers. As the project progresses, proven practices from OT plots can be adopted into FP plots, creating a locally relevant, science-backed innovation system for farmers.

On-farm yields increased five-fold

Crops were about to be harvested in one week’s time so it was an opportune time to assess progress. OT practices included the semi-aromatic (Saro 5) rice variety as well as split applications of fertilizers including: (i) NPSZn at 1 bag/acre applied 2 weeks after planting; (ii) Sulphate of Ammonia at 1 bag/acre applied 2 weeks after planting; and (iii) Urea at 1 bag/acre applied 4 weeks after planting.

Host farmers, Mr. Mubingo and Mr. Fredrick, reported that prior to the influence of methods developed through NUTCAT it was common for their rice production to hover around 5 to 8 bags/acre. Adoption of the improved set of practices now allow them to produce up to 5 times more, or 25 to 31 bags/acre. The top reasons attributed to the poor rice crop productivity in the past included reliance on poor seed quality, no fertilizer use, and other less rigorous agronomy.

In order to improve yields, there is need to ensure use of good seeds, more precise spacing through row planting, weeding at least twice, and timely scouting and intervention for pests and diseases – Kasula District Farmers, Mr. Daudi Martin Mubingo and Mr. Nicholas Frederick.

Speaking during the field day, the scheme chairperson urged farmers to adopt the Saro 5 rice variety in their farms, as it contains multiple benefits. He also requested the guest of honour, District Administrative Secretary, Mme. Theresia Mtewele, convinced of the merits of project, to ensure that the main canal serving the irrigation scheme is completed, and the roads to the scheme repaired, for farmers to reap the full benefits. “Population increase goes hand-in-hand with decreased soil fertility, thus the need for fertility restoration through application of organic/inorganic nutrients,” said Mme. Mtewele.

Such sharing of the evidence of potential for large-scale improvement in a stagnant and low yielding cropping system does provide a common sense of optimism amongst those attending the event. “Farmers have a clearer vision of how to realize a similar level of productivity if the begin to modify their own conventional farming techniques to align with the optimal management practices that are being implemented and further improved within the NUTCAT on-farm learning environment,” Dr. Ivan Adolwa, Farming Systems Scientist at APNI.

This event received wide attention by thousands more farmers and agricultural stakeholders through coverage provided by the national broadcaster Tanzania Broadcasting Corporation (TBC).

Also Read: Monsoon Update: Monsoon Hits Kerala Two Days Ahead

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