Sugarcane farmers in Busia have been challenged to embrace modern technologies on fertilizer distribution during planting and top dressing to ensure fertilizer is applied economically, accurately and uniformly to all crops to increase the tonnage per acre.
The general manager of West Kenya sugar ltd at Olepito Genald Okoth noted that despite the advancement of technology in the sugar sector, Busia farmers are yet to embrace it and have stuck to using broadcasting methods while applying fertilizer.
“Although modern equipment has existed for years, farmers in Busia are yet to fully utilise it and realise its benefits, use of Mayfield fertilizer distributor saves farmers on labour and minimizes pilferage due to poor supervision,” noted Okoth.
The MG said there has been a significant improvement on production for farmers who are already using the machine as the factory has witnessed some farmers grow from 15 tonnes per acre to 70 tonnes.
“It is important to use application methods that apply nutrients as close as possible to the roots in both the plant and the ratoon sugarcane crop,” he added.
His sentiment was echoed by the Agriculture officer in the company Titus Ondigo who said after research by the factory it was discovered that there was a lot of wastage by most farmers, a move that prompted them to incorporate experts to solve fertilizer management problems.
According to Ondigo with the machine, 100kg of fertilizer is enough to apply on one acre piece of sugarcane plantation as compared to the initial 150kg.
“Use of machines is cost-effective, particularly in developing countries where labour is more cost-effective than mechanical application. Unlike the use of hand, machines ensure uniform application of fertilizer that minimizes human errors,” said Odingo.
With modern agriculture being driven by continuous improvements in digital tools and data as well as collaborations among farmers and researchers across the public and private sectors, the company has prioritized the sensitization of farmers on timely and appropriate fertilizer application techniques.
“As a pilot program we are working with farmers, we supply fertilizer and experts to aid farmers on this. What we target is to maximize the output from the farm, as we help farmers realize profit,” said Okoth.
Patrick Masinde, a sugarcane farmer from Matayos Sub-County bared witness how the technology has aided him to realize over 60 tonnes in the last two harvests.
“Since the company advised me to use Mayfield machines my production has been on a rising trend, it allows for maximising the use of labour and optimising the fertilizer potential, thus ensuring improved crop quality and yield,” noted Masinde.
With time, agriculture continues to witness more technological advancements. From use of tractors for ploughing, irrigation, soil sampling and now fertilizer application techniques all led to higher yields and improved quality of the food and fibre that was grown.
There is a need for urgent intervention in the sugar sector which has seen factories facing acute cane shortages even as the country continues to grapple with rising sugar prices.