The Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) has began conducting soil & leaf testing among small-scale tea farmers in Kenya to determine the best fertiliser for them. The project, a joint venture between the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) , International Finance Corporation (IFC) and Crop Nutrition Laboratory Services (CropNuts) aims at increasing tea production in smallholder tea farms through fertiliser optimisation.
CropNuts Soil & leaf testing team have so far picked sample soil & leaf samples from tea zones in 5 counties including Bomet, Kisii, Kakamega, Nyeri, Murang’a and Kirinyaga counties. In total, Cropnuts have so far covered 55 tea catchment areas where tea supplied to KTDA-managed factories is grown. Some 64 tea farms are picked randomly from these areas for soil testing.
“Crop Nutrition Laboratory Services (CropNuts) due to its proven capability in offering high quality-high value soil and leaf testing services was chosen as a partner to test soil and leaf samples for fertility in the KTDA tea zones. A pilot study was conducted whose results proved that the tea farms are facing fertility deficiencies and hence created a necessity to upscale the study to all their tea zones.” said Lenny Karanja, the KTDA Soil & Leaf Testing Project Manager at CropNuts
Correct Fertiliser Use
Every year, KTDA purchases fertiliser in large volumes for its farmers. The fertiliser is then supplied to farmers on credit, with repayment made when they sell their tea to the company. The current tests also include examining tea leaves.
For a long time now, the fertiliser blends that KTDA has been purchasing and distributing to tea farmers have been based on soil analysis conducted so many years ago. That’s the main reason for the current KTDA soil & leaf testing project. According to Mr Lenny Karanja, there could have been changes to the soil structure since then. The soil’s chemistry may also have been altered by years of tea production and fertiliser application.
The KTDA Soil & Leaf Testing Project is expected to run till April 2018. The aim behind the project is understanding the underlying soil fertility issues in Kenya tea zones. Thereafter, CropNuts is tasked to provide optimal fertilizer recommendations that will help improve farmer’s current tea yields and bring in more economical benefits to all the KTDA farmers. And consequently, increase the market value of the Kenyan tea internationally.
This article first appeared on the Standard Newspaper