By EDGAR R. BATTE

Posted  Wednesday, December 23  2009 at  00:00

IN SUMMARY

The researcher cites some traditionally matooke-growing areas like Bugerere and Masaka which are no longer as active and have been outdone by Rakai, Ibanda and Bushenyi where farmers are more keen to manage their gardens and thus soil quality.

Good soils make fine gardens and the quality of soil determines the yields a farmer gets, if all other factors remain constant. In Uganda, farmers continue to boast of rich soils but according to Dr Drake Mubiru, a senior researcher and head of the soil unit at Kawanda Agricultural Research Institute (Kari), local farmers could be headed for hard times if they don’t adopt good soil management practices.

Dr Mubiru says that Ugandan soils though relatively rich, have continuously been undermined, which explains the continuous decline in its quality.

“Farmers don’t add fertilisers and organic matter to their farms to maintain the soil quality,” he added. Traditionally, the rains helped in soil management as soils would be left to rest as bushes grew, helping farmers get organic matter which would rejuvenate the fertility of the soils. But this is no longer the case due to population pressure. “Land is no longer left to rest,” Dr Mubiru adds.

He cites Kabale during the colonial era when terraces were constructed, which helped in checking soil erosion but are now being encroached on and this has compromised the soil quality.

The researcher cites some traditionally matooke-growing areas like Bugerere and Masaka which are no longer as active and have been outdone by Rakai, Ibanda and Bushenyi where farmers are more keen to manage their gardens and thus soil quality. Dr Mubiru compares Uganda to neighbouring Kenya whose input use is high. “In Uganda, we are at one kilogramme of nutrients per hectare per year on average, which is because of the estates – the sugar, tea and now the flower farms. Once you pull them out, it goes to 0.3 nutrients per hectare per year. In Kenya, it is 50kg of nutrients per hectare per year. Tanzania also beats Uganda in chemical fertiliser use. But there is a way out for a keen farmer and that is by soil testing, which basically is analysis of a soil sample to determine nutrient content, composition and other characteristics, including contaminants, a service provided by Kari. Soil tests are usually done to measure fertility and indicate deficiencies that need to be remedied as Dr Mubiru adds, “Our mandate is looking at soil and soil management in the Naro set up and agriculture in the country.”

However, not many farmers are aware of this. Mubiru says that they have the capacity to run about 50,000 samples a year but are currently operating at a rate of 10 per cent yet they would expect a bulk of the soil samples to come from farmers. Soil testing is not free but is at a non commercial charge. Soil mapping is outlining the soil types. Dr. Moses Isabirye, a research officer on soil explains what soil map sheets are, “We subdivided the country according to a grid, each of which covers a certain area. Each grid represents a square according to our scale, so when you put 17 of them together you get Uganda. Each of these squares covers several districts.”

Uganda is therefore digitised on a scale of 1:250,000 which according to Dr. Isabirye, represents one grid unit on paper where for instance one centimetre on the map translates in about 2.5kilomteres on the ground, on a rough scale.

Dr Mubiru states, “Uganda is on 17 sheets on a grid form and out of the 17, we have digitised four. What we inherited was like an album where we have these soil maps in hard copies but we are now doing it digitally by getting soil maps in digital form and then feeding them into the computer, and that helps in updating. Other methods through which soil can be tested include use of a testing kit. One has been developed by Makerere University’s soil science department and it’s under validation. “We think that it can be used. If our activities were well-coordinated, the local government would the take it up for instance at sub-county level, which can buy the kit and serve the farmers.” Charles Kizza, the technician at department of soil science at Makerere University says the kit goes for Ushs180,000.

Link: http://www.monitor.co.ug/Magazines/Farming/-/689860/829136/-/wrflq1/-/index.html

About the National Agricultural Research Laboratories (NARL)

  • Welcome message from the Director
  • Research Programmes:
  • Core Values of NARL

Background:

Formerly a rubber estate, the institute was acquired in 1934 from K. Borup, a Danish farmer. It became the headquarters of research division of the Department of Agriculture in 1937 with a mandate to conduct research on coffee, tea, cotton and native food crops. The 630 hectare station located13km north of Kampala became the hub for scientific investigations for African agriculture to make it more productive and economically viable.

The institute has undergone several transformations both in naming and core research mandates and activities over the years. Currently, it is one of the six National Agricultural Research Institutes (NARIs established by the NAR Act 2005) under the dispensation of the National Agricultural Research organization.

Our Mandate

Conducting research and providing services on soils, agro-meteorology and Environment; bananas; biosystems and agricultural engineering; food science and agribusiness; and biodiversity and biotechnology

Our Goal:  Agricultural productivity and household incomes increased through use of improved technologies and practices

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  Research Programmes:

Implementation of activities is organized in five research programmes and an information and documentation unit supported by an administration unit:

  • Soils, Agro-meteorology and Environment Research Programme,
  • Banana Research Programme,
  • Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering Research Programme,
  • Food Biosciences and Agribusiness Research Programme,
  • Biodiversity and Biotechnology Programmes.

Hosted institutions:

  • International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA)
  •   International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT)
  •   Korean Project on International Agriculture (KOPIA)
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Core Values of NARL:

  • Excellence
  • Accountability
  • Market responsiveness
  • Client oriented
  • Demand driven
  • Sustainability
  • Integrity
  • Gender sensitivity
  • Transparency
  • Environment consciousness

Institute expected outputs

NARL’s activities are premised on the following outputs:

  • Tools, recommendations and technologies for improved soil and water management, sustainable land use and resilience to climate change
  • Improved banana varieties and other technologies for enhancing banana productivity and utilization
  • Technologies and practices that enhance conservation and utilization of genetic resources
  • Processes, systems and products that enhance market value of agricultural commodities
  • Biosystems and agricultural engineering products that improve agricultural production efficiency
  • Impact at specified sites created through multi-stakeholder innovation platforms
  • Information systems that support agricultural research and development
  • World class infrastructure and management systems that strengthen generation and promotion of outputs
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Vision

To be a centre of excellence generating and promoting appropriate agricultural technologies

Mission

To generate and promote agricultural technologies and improve productivity, value addition, income and food security

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