What the best fertilser should offer your crops for improved production

Maksim Poltoradnev, the marketing director of United Fertiliser Company. The company is the trading arm of two Russian fertiliser manufacturers, Uralchem and Uralkali.

Photo credit: Courtesy

What you need to know:

  • Soils in Africa and in Kenya in particular are highly weathered and are characterised by low-nutrient reserves and low organic matter content.
  • To avoid further soil degradation and inevitable drop in yield levels, growers should use mineral fertilisers. Simply put, the mineral fertiliser is the food for the crop. 
  • For healthy growth, plants require about 17 nutrients. Among them, nitrogen is known to be the most limiting followed by potassium and phosphorus.
  • The correctly designed fertiliser programme should be based on the results of soil analysis and yield target (nutrient removal).

As a top supplier of fertiliser in the continent and beyond, what is ailing soils in Kenya and Africa?

Soils in Africa and in Kenya in particular are highly weathered and are characterised by low-nutrient reserves and low organic matter content.

Moreover, high levels of acidity and aluminium toxicity are widespread constraints across crop lands. To combat soil acidity and increased pH, liming is strongly recommended.

High cost of fertiliser remains a challenge for smallholder farmers in Kenya. How is your firm helping in overcoming the challenge?

Manufacturers, traders, importers, distributors on one side, and agro-dealers and farmers on the other, are interconnected and involved in this process.

Landed cost includes many layers besides the original price of the product: transportation fees (both inland and ocean), customs, duties, taxes, tariffs, insurance, currency conversion, handling, bagging and payment fees. Furthermore, retail price heavily depends on demand. 

We deal directly with importers and distributors, working around middlemen, thus avoiding generation of extra cost due to additional interest of third parties. 

Tell us something about mineral fertilisers and why they are important in crop farming, especially at this time in Kenya? 

To avoid further soil degradation and inevitable drop in yield levels, growers should use mineral fertilisers.

Simply put, the mineral fertiliser is the food for the crop. 

What are the most important elements in fertilisers to make plants robust and high-yielding?

For healthy growth, plants require about 17 nutrients. Among them, nitrogen is known to be the most limiting followed by potassium and phosphorus.

These three nutrients are called primary, as they are demanded in large quantities compared to other elements.

However, one should not just confine oneself to nitrogen fertiliser. Soils can also make crops nutritionally deficient by fixing phosphorus, which makes it insoluble and therefore unavailable to plants.

Potassium is a key element to water balance in plants, which drives their vigour and is associated with root growth, transport of nutrient compounds between different plant organs, crop quality and crop resistance to lodging, disease and drought.

What products and services can farmers in the country expect from your company?

All the nutrients your crops need to produce a healthy and abundant harvest are available in the complete range of products offered by United Fertilisers Company Limited, the trading arm of two Russian fertiliser manufacturers, Uralchem and Uralkali.

Soil testing helps farmers make the correct recommendations for application of fertilisers. I have my results, guide me as a farmer in applying feriliser correctly?

The correctly designed fertiliser programme should be based on the results of soil analysis and yield target (nutrient removal).

It should therefore consist of basal fertiliser and in-season top-dressing. For instance, at planting time, the farmer may apply fertiliser with a low nitrogen and high phosphorus and potassium content, which provides only small quantities of nitrogen to prevent losses and meets 100 per cent and 70 to 100 per cent of phosphorus and potassium demand, respectively.

Compound NPKs containing all three primary nutrients in each granule, might be of good fit.

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