Soil analysis tool helps farmers
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CTA. 2006. Soil analysis tool helps farmers. Spore 123. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/48066
Internet URL: http://spore.cta.int/images/stories/pdf/old/spore123.pdf
An alliance between two state-of-the-art technologies is helping African farmers improve crop yields...
An alliance between two state-of-the-art technologies is helping African farmers improve crop yields. Infrared spectroscopy (IR) soil analysis is being used in tandem with global positioning systems (GPS) and satellite remote sensing to produce large-scale maps that pinpoint exactly where soils have nutritional or erosion problems. From there, it is a short step to advising farmers on what needs to be done and where. Lack of soil fertility and the inability of extension agents to provide farmers with reliable and cost-effective recommendations about how to improve their soils is one of the principal factors limiting African food production. Scientists at the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) in Nairobi have spent 5 years adapting IR technology to farm conditions in Africa and linking it with GPS for even more effective results. The technology is currently being used in Western Kenya as part of a major project designed to halt land degradation and restore thousands of hectares of degraded farmland to productive use. It has already been used to identify which soil properties were lacking in 2,500 Kenyan farms. Infrared spectroscopy soil analysis is a simple and easy-to-use technique which reduces the cost of soil analysis by 99%. An infrared light shined onto a soil sample produces a rapid identification of the type and composition of the soil, enabling advisors to assess the type and amount of fertiliser needed to raise its productivity. Researchers associated with the ICRAF project believe that the potential for widespread adoption of IR by public and private sector providers of on-farm advisory services is now considerable. Dr Keith Shepherd, the project s lead scientist, says that with one IR instrument, laboratories in rural areas will be able to analyse not just soils and crops, but also a wide range of agricultural inputs and products, including manure, fertiliser, animal feed, grain, and milk. We can tell from a cow s poop whether it is well or poorly fed, or even about its level of tick infestation , he said. Besides Kenya, the technique has also been tested in Madagascar, Malawi, Mali and Uganda. World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) United Nations Avenue Gigiri PO Box 30677-00100 GPO Nairobi Kenya Fax: +254 20 722 4001 Email: ICRAF@cgiar.org Website: www.worldagroforestry.org