New fertiliser to boost smallholder farmers’ productivity

MOROGORO: THE Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology (COSTECH) 400m/- worth research project on new fertiliser is set to improve soil productivity and livelihoods of smallholder farmers in the country.

According to a researcher from the Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) Department of Soil and Geological Science, Mr Damiano Kwaslema, “The new fertiliser (Bio-Rock) will promote faster, healthier, sustained growth for all plants and bring relief to farmers.” He added, “We looked at microbes capable of dissolving phosphorus to make a fertiliser formulation with a mixture of rocks and microbes” Mr Kwaslema revealed this during a visit by the COSTECH team and journalists at SUA to examine the value of money for funds provided by the government for the execution of the project.

He said COSTECH enabled them to buy a machine which identified friendly microbes that can dissolve the minerals found in the rocks which will benefit farmers.

“The support enabled us to purchase equipment to identify microbes through genetic identification thus, we make fertiliser formulation,” said Mr Kwaslema, saying they use Minjingu, Pandahill and other rocks.

He said Bio-rock P fertiliser is made of rock phosphate and phosphate solubilising bacteria. He said they were able to make fertiliser and test it in the southern zone and Morogoro areas where the farmers participated, including supply officers and it showed an increase in productivity especially in corn crops.

He said that the farmer who uses the Bio-Rock P fertiliser increases soil productivity by more than 84 per cent, almost two times compared to the one who did not use it.

However, for those who used rocks without using microbes, it increased by 25 per cent, thus confirming the effectiveness of Bio Rock P fertiliser.

“We aim to conduct experiments and find microbes that can increase production by dissolving rocks, and which can address the effects of climate change and harsh environments and which can also live in a highly salted environment,” said Mr Kwaslema.

The Senior Lecturer and Researcher in Soil Microbiology and Biochemistry at SUA, Dr Hamisi Tindwa said the research aimed to bring relief to the farmers so they can use raw materials that are easily available in the country.

“Phosphorus rocks, including adding insect food like molasses and other things that are easily available in the country without needing to spend other costs to make plant food will bring relief. This fertiliser must reach the farmer in the market at a cheap price because its availability is cheap as well as its raw material,” said Dr Tindwa.

The Bio-rock P is a research project aiming at developing a factory-packaged portable readyto-apply biofertiliser as a cheap alternative to weather-soluble P- fertiliser for selected combinations of rock phosphate, phosphate solubilising microorganisms and organic carbon.

“The impetus for developing bio-rock P fertiliser is to alleviate phosphorus deficiency in soils which is a serious constraint to crop production in many parts of Tanzania,” said Dr Tindwa.

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