Cowpea is an important food crop in Africa. It is grown by most small-holder farmers in Machakos and Makueni Counties in Kenya. Cowpea is generally regarded as being tolerant of poor soil fertility. As a result, farmers do not apply manure or fertilizer to the crop. However, as soils have become depleted of their natural fertility, grain yields have declined. As most soils are deficient in Phosphorus (P), FIPS-Africa has been encouraging farmers to experiment with dressing their seeds with P.
Farmers are finding that the addition of only 25 g of a product to 1 kg of seed can more than double their grain yields. This farmer, near Kasikeu in Makueni County, shows her harvest from a small plot experiment using a P seed dressing on the improved M66 variety. In her left hand is the harvest from the plot without seed dressing. This weighed only 0.5 kg. In her right hand is the harvest from the seeds which had been treated with P. This weighed 1.4 kg. Despite extremely low rainfall during the long rainy season, P seed dressing increased grain yield by 280%!
This farmer is just one of hundreds of thousands of small-holder farmers in East Africa currently benefiting from FIPS-Africa’s Approach. The Approach is helping farmers to quickly and cost-effectively improve their crop productivity and incomes through the adoption of improved crop varieties and improved crop and soil management.