How to Choose the Best Fertilizer for Horticulture and Cash Crops
- Category: KEL blog
- Written by Kel Admin
Agriculture is one of the most profitable ventures in Kenya, and in most other parts of Africa. From kitchen gardens to subsistence and commercial farming, agriculture puts food on the table for close to 80% of Africa’s population. However, with the weather patterns getting ever more unpredictable, and soils being exhausted of their natural nutrients due to unsustainable farming practices, there has never been a more urgent need to replenish the soils, and irrigate the crops for better yields than today.
Fertilizers are one of the tried and tested methods of replenishing the soil, to optimize returns from your investment in quality seeds, pest control, and irrigation. However, different types of fertilizers serve different purposes. For best results, below are expert tips on how to choose the best fertilizer for your horticulture and cash crop farming.
Type of Soil and PH
Soil type is one of the most important determinants of the type of fertilizer to use on your farm. Various types of soils have different characteristics such as particle size, PH (acidity or alkalinity), as well as nutrient deficiencies, all which need to be factored in when making your decision on the best fertilizer to use for maximum yields. Soil PH is an important factor that affects how crops take up fertilizers once applied to the soil. For instance, high levels of aluminium in the soil can reduce the uptake of phosphates and water through the roots. The optimum soil PH for most crops is 6-7. Low soil PH can be raised through use of lime or wood ash, while sulfur and aluminum sulfate are widely used to lower the ph.
As such, it is important to conduct soil test before purchasing your fertilizers, so as to determine the soil’s nutritional requirements, and thus to help you make a more informed decision on which fertilizer to buy. Soil tests can be done by independent approved laboratories, which may also give invaluable suggestions on how to rectify any deficiencies in the soil.
Type of Crop
What part of the crop do you intend to harvest? For crops such as kale, cabbages, tea, etc. you will be most interested in the leaves, while crops such as Irish potatoes, sweet potatoes, cassavas and red bulb onions, you will be going for the roots. Other crops such as tomatoes, passion fruits, pawpaw, you will be going for the actual fruits. Though successful crop growth requires all round availability of vital nutrients, the part of the crop to be harvested will determine the ratio of nutritional requirements that a fertilizer should have.
General-purpose fertilizers come in the ratio of 5:5:5 for Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium, also referred to as NPK. For crops for leaf harvest, you could go for an NPK ratio of 5:7:5, which will ensure sufficient availability of Nitrogen, higher quantities of Phosphorus, and sufficient availability of Potassium, which together give the best combination for proper root development, foliage growth, and faster crop maturity.
While there are different types of fertilizers that are recommended for different applications, an often-overlooked benefit has been availability of micro-nutrients in the fertilizer, besides the major ones (NPK). Such nutrients include Calcium, Boron, Copper, Iron, Manganese, Zinc, Molybdenum, and Nickel, among others. Though as important in crop nutrition as the major nutrients, these are however required in much smaller quantities.
Kelphos Fertilizers by Kel chemicals are important sources of both major and micro-nutrients. This range of fertilizers guarantees steady crop growth, faster maturity, and longer shelf-life for the farm produce, which are important factors in not only ensuring higher yields and maximum profitability, but also essential in reducing post-harvest losses, which in some cases account for up to 30% of all losses to farmers.
Therefore, when choosing the best fertilizer for your horticulture and commercial farming in Kenya, you can never go wrong with the Kelphos range of fertilizers.