College of Agriculture & Natural Resources
Environmental Science & Technology

Soil ‘Doctor’ Arrives

Dr. Weil Launches SoilDoc in Zambia

MWAZIPEZA CHANDA – Lusaka. A MOBILE soil testing kit is currently under trial in Eastern Province to analyse soil to ensure farmers have the right information for fertiliser application.

The SoilDoc was launched in Zambia recently under the partnership of Dupont Pioneer and researchers from two American universities. Zambia Agriculture Research Institute (ZARI) deputy director Samuel Phiri said in an interview that despite Zambia possessing large tracts of land and water sources, the population was still faced with chronic food challenges due to poor farming practices.

Dr Phiri is happy that the collaboration, which has already seen 100 samples collected and tested in Eastern Province, will see soil analysis being taken closer to the rural farmers. “The kit will provide precision in fertiliser application and help Government ensure the prudent use of resources,” he said. Under the plan, a total of 10,000 samples are expected to be collected countrywide to further validate soil mapping information and create a data base for fertiliser firms to formulate precision fertiliser.

Dupont Pioneer planted maize trials in Eastern Province with three different treatments SoilDoc recommendation, normal blanket recommendation and a check with no fertiliser applied. The small-scale farmers were selected from Cargill farmers in Lundazi, Chipata, Katete and Petauke. 476 farmers in the Chipata South farming block recently attended a proof of concept exercise. Dupont Pioneer managing director Munyaradzi Mutsvairo said the firm’s involvement in the research is due to its commitment to environmental stewardship.

SoilDoc was developed by American researchers from the University of Maryland and the University of Columbia’s Earth Institute in light of falling soil fertility across the developing world. Commenting on the development, lead researcher Ray Weil from the University of Maryland says the kit combines wet testing chemicals and miniaturised commercial laboratory equipment to help field workers undertake accurate laboratory-grade tests.

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