NAIROBI, KENYA: Agro input company Elgon Kenya has partnered with global plant health and seed company UPL to unveil a unique soil enhancer that absorbs and releases moisture and nutrients only when plants need them, conserving water at a time when food producers are grappling with water shortage occasioned by changing weather patterns.
Dubbed Zeba (TM), the starch based absorbent and which comes in form of granules allows each granule to expand by 400 times its original size, trapping water and nutrients which are then released during dry spells while remaining effective for more than an year. Up to 95 per cent of the water held by the granules is released back to the soil.
The coming to the market of the product is timely, at a time when water scarcity has become the greatest concern for farmers as a result of depressed rains. The cost of irrigation still remains exorbitant and out of reach for most of especially smallholder farmers.
“This is one of the most revolutionary innovations of our time especially in judicious use of water. Water is a key component in food production and with dwindling supplies, this technology ensures not just availability of water throughout the plant growth cycle, but also that no drop is wasted,” said Mr. Bimal Kantaria, Director at Elgon Kenya.
The nontoxic and biodegradable product has been trialed on a host of crops including onions, dry beans, snap beans potatoes and flowers with growers recording between five and 10 per cent increase in yields and doubling their returns on investment.
“Zeba gives crop growers the ultimate benefit, allowing them to save water and key nutrients which would ordinarily be lost through for example leaching. Growers are therefore able to utilize two key aspects of plant growth without having to spend more,” said Nishant Pahuja the UPL Business Head for Africa.
Repeated independent testing over seven years has shown Zeba significantly accelerates seedling emergence and strengthens stand establishment, resulting in consistent growth and higher-quality plants with less water and reduced inputs. The expansion and contraction of each particle in response to water availability and demand helps aerate the soil, providing more oxygen to the plant's root system.
Nishant Pahuja UPL Business Head for Africa And Baiju Kantaria Director Elgon Kenya
“Researchers have sounded the alarm that changes in weather will hit Africa especially because a huge population relies on agriculture for their livelihood. But we have to also be ahead of weather vagaries and technologies like Zeba allows us to practice year round uninterrupted farming especially now when demand for food has reached unprecedented highs,” said Savesh Kumar, the African Head of Marketing at UPL.