Soil scanners to boost harvest in Tharaka-Nithi County

Prof. Erastus Njoka (middle) during the launch of the soil scanner exercise.

A boost in crop harvest is expected in Tharaka-Nithi County following introduction of high-end technology soil scanners by Chuka University that will offer farmers free services for the next two years.

The soil scanners provide on-the-spot soil analyses and fertilizer recommendations enabling farmers to know what to improve to boosting soil fertility. Speaking at Mwanga chief’s camp in Chuka Sub County on Wednesday during launch of the exercise, Chuka University Vice Chancellor Professor Erastus Njoka said with the help of the scanners and the complementary training; the region is expected to improve food security.

“Our farmers will get the free service for two years after which they will be required to pay about Sh 1000 for the analysis,” said Professor Njoka. He said the scanner is able to analyse the content of nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, water and even organic matter in soils in less than five minutes.

The don asked farmers to embrace the new technologies in farming to enable the region to boost productivity.The scanner is equipped with a small near infrared sensor and a meter. It utilizes a blue tooth connection through which the scanned data is transferred via a smartphone App to Global Soil Database, consisting of thousands of soil analyses.

On average, a soil scanner costs Sh 400, 000 and requires a an annual license of Sh 225,000. In about five minutes, the farmer gets results on phone which can also be printed. At the same time, Professor Njoka said there was need to increase existing irrigation farms to mitigate climate change that has adverse effect on agriculture leading to hunger almost every year.

“We need to embrace irrigated farming because it’s no longer possible to rely on natural rain because of the climatic changes that have brought unpredictable weather seasons,” he said.

He said the university had partnered with the Israeli government to start a Sh 23 million irrigation project on its 500-acre farm at Kairini that will also act as regional demonstration farms.The farm will also be used for agricultural related research by both students and private research firms.