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Firm to give soil booster to cane farmers

Ernest Kombo, a sugarcane farmer, scoops filter-mart that he intends to apply on his crops in Malava, Kakamega County. [Mumo Munuve, Standard]

West Kenya Sugar Company will start to offer filter-mud to sugar cane farmers to help improve soil fertility and enhance production.

Filter-mud is a bagasse byproduct that comes from the sugar crushing process and is often used as a source of energy and nutrients to the soil.

The firm‘s agronomist Kangwana Wa Kulova observed that the miller was committed to ensuring the farmer gets improved yields.

“The filter-mud is available at an extremely low cost of Sh116 per tonne the objective being many of our farmers get it and ensure the crops are healthy and will definitely produce good tonnes when harvested,” he said.

“The byproduct is able to make the soil fertile for more than four years and that will save the farmers from incurring the cost of buying other nutrient boosters.”

He further appealed to farmers to inter-crop sugarcane with leguminous crops like beans, groundnuts but not maize.

Dr Caroline Kundu a soils expert at Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (Kalro) advised that the filter mud was good in sandy soils as it improves on its moisture-holding capacity and texture.

She however advised that after applying the residue the farmers should, later on, apply non-organic fertilisers to make sure the soil carries all required nutrients for cane farming.

“The residue may not be of much help if you fail to test the soil to know what is lacking then supplementing it with non-organic fertilisers. That way the cane yield will be optimum,” she said.

Growing the crop has turned out to be a lucrative venture due to good cane prices. A farmer takes home Sh4,040 for a tonne of the crop.

Ideally, one acre of sugarcane plantation is supposed to produce an average of 60 tonnes but some farmers are getting as low as 25 tonnes because of poor crop husbandry.

A farmer in Malava Sub-county Ernest Kombo is among many who have welcomed the offer and will be using filter-mud on this farm.

He says he harvested 29 tonnes from his one-acre piece in June 2021 and admits he failed to apply sufficient fertilizer on it.

“I started applying filter-mud on my ratoon cane because some of my colleagues who embraced its use from long ago have been recording good yield,” said Kombo.  “I think what I lacked was information about filter-mud but I now know.”

West Kenya Sugar Company the largest producer of the sweetener in Kenya at the moment also offers subsidized non-organic fertilisers to its farmers.

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