North Rift maize farmers maintain that subsidised fertiliser is to blame for discoloration and uneven germination of their crop despite the government linking the poor growth to heavy rains.
The Ministry of Agriculture said the rains that coincided with the planting season led to the leaching (absorption of fertiliser) below the roots, denying the crop essential nutrients to prevent the change of colour.
The ministry further argued that farmers whose crop was affected by the yellow colouration used NPK fertiliser, which takes longer before having impact on maize.
Farmers interviewed by the Business Daily forecasted poor harvests and called on the government to move swiftly and address the situation.
“We’ve been forced to use urea to help in recovery of the stunted plants. This has to do with the fertiliser as we’ve not witnessed such a phenomenon before,” James Rogony, a farmer from Ziwa said. His 50 acre farm was affected.
This phenomenon has raised fears of poor crop harvest in Gishu County, which is Kenya’s food basket, in what could have hurt farmers earnings and household budgets from expensive flour—the country’s staple food.
The farmers have blamed the phenomenon to loopholes during the distribution of subsidised fertiliser early this year. The worst hit areas are Moi’s Bridge, Ziwa, Moiben, Turbo and Soy in the outskirts of Eldoret town.
The farmers demanded that ministry officials should carry out thorough tests on the affected crops.
“Whoever supplied the fertiliser should be held responsible. We fear that the fertiliser supplied in the region was substandard,” said Jonathan Chumba, another farmer.
A recent survey by the ministry revealed that out of the 100,000 hectares of land under maize in the county, only less than one per cent of the crop had turned yellow.
“We fear that unscrupulous individuals might have taken advantage of farmers who were impatient to plant following the onset of the rainy season and supplied them with substandard fertiliser,” said Uasin-Gishu County Kenya Farmers Association (KFA) Director Mr Kipkorir Menjo:
Agriculture Principal Secretary Dr Richard Lesiyampe who toured the region on Tuesday sought to assure farmers that the condition has nothing to do with fertiliser.
He said that experts from the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service and Kenya Bureau of Standards had conducted an analysis on soil, crop and fertiliser samples.
“The analysis confirmed that the government subsidised fertilizer is within scientific requirements and is not adulterated,” said Dr Lesiyampe.