Crop scientists from Africa Innovations Institute (AfrII) are conducting a string of training’s for rice farmers in the Rice growing areas in eastern region of Uganda on the appropriate application of fertilizers on Rice.
The training targets rice farmers in Doho rice scheme in Butaleja District and Kibimba Rice Scheme in Bugiri district through a three years (2016 to 2019) project dubbed ENRICH (Enhancing rice markets in Uganda through smart micro-nutrient fertilization).
The training of farmers is informed by the numerous ongoing researches on rice by the scientists from Africa innovations institute which has proved that Soil nutrient depletion is one of the top most agricultural production constraints in Uganda which directly affects rice crop yields yet, fertilizers are barely used.
The research on rice by Africa innovations institute crop scientists focuses on finding fertilizers for the rice crop to address the prevailing rice nutrient problems through testing and recommending best micro and macro-nutrient fertilizer combinations and application methods that give best yield results for farmers.
Scientists under the project have set up field experiments in Eastern Uganda on the two rice irrigation schemes of Doho in Butaleja District and Kibimba in Bugiri district. This has been successfully done with the involvement of Farmer Research Groups (FRGs) that are helping in trial monitoring and evaluation. These farmers groups 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 farming management practices.
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. “These have been applied at rates based on the results of soil analysis from the fields where the trials are being conducted.” Says AfrII Agronomist, Mr. Thomas Awio, also the lead technical supervisor of the experiments.
According to Professor Otim-Nape, the Chairman African Innovation institute this research has potential to improve the productivity of the rice crop in Uganda.
“Similar research has been conducted in neighboring Tanzania and other countries and the results were overwhelming. If this same research emerges a success, then Uganda is headed for greater things with the rice crop. We have also actively engaged farmers to own this research. Farmers need to understand clearly what the experiment is all about, why they (farmers) should participate which is why we have trained them to clearly understand the importance of the experiments and also trained them on what to do” said Prof. Nape.
Professor Otim-Nape, is a veteran plant scientist famously referred to as ‘Dr. Cassava’ for his enormous efforts in saving the crop from the dreaded cassava mosaic epidemic. He is now looking at improving the rice grain. He relayed optimism that once the research emerges successful, this will be the biggest breakthrough for rice farmers in Uganda for they will reap big from rice production.
By Joshua Mutale (Science & Environment Journalist )