The strongly held but wrong perception among farmers in Babati District that use of mineral fertilizers destroys the soil is a major cause of the low crop yield in the district.
The low agricultural productivity in turn leads to periodic food shortages, undernourishment and dismal livelihoods especially among resource poor small scale farmers. Soils in Babati are deficient in key nutrients mainly Nitrogen (N) and Phosphorus (P). Most farmers mine the soil for nutrients because farming practices are characterized by non-use of fertilizers or, at best, use of poor quality manure.
The Babati research team conducted farmer participatory research during 2012/13 and 2013/14 to demonstrate the impact of locally-available Minjingu fertilizers on the yield of improved maize varieties intercropped with an elite pigeon pea variety called Mali (ICEAP 00040).
In the first year, fertilizer treatments comprised of Minjingu Phosphate Rock (0% N, 13%P, 0% K), Minjingu Mazao (10%N, 9%P, 0%K) and DAP (18%N, 20%P, 0%K) applied through micro-dosing at a rate of 20kg P/ha at planting. All treatments were top dressed with split applications of urea at the rate of 60kgN/ha: 30% at planting and 70% at knee high stage.
Minjingu fertilizers which are relatively new on the market, are cheaper than other fertilizers sch as DAP. In one of the villages (Sabilo), yield gains in response to fertilizer application were 3.8 t/ha for Minjingu phosphate rock, 4.1 t/ha for Minjingu mazao and 4.6 t/ha for DAP compared to 0.71 t/ha under farmers’ practice.
Preference for the P fertilizer brands varied between villages but Minjingu mazao was popular in two villages (Seloto, and Long), while Sabilo village opted for Minjingu phosphate rock. Preference was based on the level of yield increase in response to the brand of fertilizer, fertilizer availability, price and nutrient composition of the fertilizer.
Several farmers in Seloto and Sabilo have also taken up good agricultural practices including optimal spacing, correct fertilizer application and improved varieties as a result of their involvement in the project. For instance, Mrs Elizabeth S. Miindi and Mr Paulo Yawaki used DAP and Minjingu Mazao fertilizers with improved maize and pigeon pea seed this year ,2013/14, and they produced 62 -75 bags each weighing 100kg per hectare.
This change of mindset on using improved agronomic practices including fertilizer is a very key step towards increased productivity, income generation and livelihoods improvement for farmers in Babati district.
Story by Kihara, S.D Lyimo and F. Ngulu