Last week, AfrII hosted partners on the Enhancing Rice Markets in Uganda through Smart Micronutrient Fertilization (ENRICH) Project to field visits to witness progress of the experimental trials established at Doho and Kibimba rice irrigation schemes in the two districts of Butaleja and Bugiri, respectively. The Project under collaborative research efforts aims to address rice nutrient problems through testing and recommending best micro and macronutrient fertilizer combinations and application methods that give best yield results for farmers. The partners interacted with the farmers of both FRGs to share ideas on enhancing nutrient use to increase rice productivity.
Scientists at the Africa Innovations Institute (AfrII) successfully set up experimental trial plots in the two districts with the involvement of Farmer Research Groups (FRGs). These have been trained for their efficient involvement in evaluating the experiments, and selecting the best fertilizer combinations and management practices that will give the best rice yields, and can be integrated into their current management practices.
“In this phase of the research, we engaged a few farmers but we intend to involve all farmers from the different sub counties during the on farm trials.” says Thomas Awio, an agronomist at AfrII. 10 farmers were selected under the FRGs to participate in the experiment.
“By actively engaging the farmers in this research, we want them to learn and efficiently put to use the technologies being extended to them. They can then act as ambassadors of this work and share the knowledge obtained with other farmers outside the project so as to thrive rice productivity” remarks Professor Otim-Nape, the Chairman, AfrII. The Project is extending to farmers’ new ways of growing rice, new varieties and how to grow these with fertilizers.
One of the Partners on the Project, Dr. Christian Dimpka, a fertilizer expert from the International Fertilizer Development Centre (IFDC) hinted that fertilizers are a major driver of yield increase. He advises that micronutrient fertilization be taken more seriously if a farmer is to gain more from their rice farming efforts. “A farmer should always test their soil to determine what type and amount of nutrients to add in the soil. A farmer will increase productivity from 20% to 50% if they apply fertilizer and properly manage the crop.” He adds that if a farmer has been getting 5 dollars on a field, they can get 75 dollars when they ably use fertilizer on the crop.
Another partner on the project, Dr. SenthilKumar Kalimuthu, an agronomist at the Africa Rice Centre advised that farmers should use varieties resistant to disease if they are to gain more from their rice fields. “In the experiment at Doho, we are using the K98 variety because it is blast susceptible. We have observed that by applying nutrients, both micro and macro, the fertilizers can reduce the incidence of blast diseases on this variety.” Says Kalimuthu.
Farmers have appreciated the technologies and are excited in utilizing them to sustain productivity of other crops apart from rice. Ms. Faridah Akwi, the Vice Chairperson of the FRG in Kibimba, Bugiri, happily relays their gratitude. “We appreciate AfrII and partners for making us part of this research work. We intend to share the knowledge and skills extended to us through this project to other rice farmers.” “We have been trained on the best technologies including row planting, timely transplanting, weeding and application of fertilizer and micro nutrients to the fields to improve yield productivity.” Farida says.
Farmers in Uganda nearly use no fertilizers on rice yet the use of fertilizers comes with a number of advantages like increasing yields (0.8 to 1.5 t/ha – lowland rice) and (1.5 to 2.5 t/ha-upland rice). Micronutrients have been reported to enhance uptake efficiency of NPK, improving rice grain yields, profit margins, grain nutritional quality and disease tolerance. The different fertilizers being evaluated are nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), Potassium (K), Zinc (Zn), Manganese (Mn), Boron (B), sulphur (S) and a commercial micronutrient fertilizer Elfert-F.
The ENRICH project funded by the Government of the Netherlands is a partnership between Africa Innovations Institute (AfrII), Virtual Fertiliser Research Centre of the International Fertilizer Development Centre(VFRC-IFDC)-Washington DC, Africa Rice Centre (Africa Rice)-Tanzania, Wageningen University (WUR)-Netherlands, International Soil Reference and Information Centre (ISRIC)-World Soil Information, Netherlands, FICA Seeds Limited, and Wind Wood Millers Limited.