18 Mar, 2020

Professor Kabambe presenting to farmers during the activity
The Malawi Agro-Ecological Intensification (AEI) Hub on Tuesday, 17th March, 2020 organized a local field day for farmers and staff of Mkwinda and Mitundu Extension Planning Areas at Crop and Soil Sciences Research farm.

The objectives of the activity were to orient the surrounding communities on the principles of agro-ecological intensification and to get feedback from the stakeholders on the AEI trial program that is being undertaken at the university.

During the event, farmers were oriented on the principles of agro-ecological intensification in smallholder maize and legume systems, such as the use of agricultural lime to neutralize soil acidity and the use of biochar in order to increase yields in maize and legumes.

Speaking in an interview, Coordinator of the AEI Hub Professor Vernon Kabambe said there are low yields in maize and legumes in the central region areas such as Lilongwe and Dedza due to soil acidity. He said the application of lime and biochar can help to increase the crop yields.

“We noticed that the micro-dosing of lime neutralizes soil acidity, and biochar helps to hold water and nutrients in the soil. We believe that by solving or eliminating major constraints such soil acidity or low water holding capacity, the crops will respond to other factors such as fertilisers or increasing plant density.” Professor Kabambe said.

According to Professor Kabambe, most of the upland soils in medium and higher altitude areas of Malawi are highly weathered, leached, low in soil pH and deficient in calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. Such soils can be ameliorated by lime or biochar among other things.

The AEI Hub is exploring the role of several technological concepts to increase yields obtained by smallholder farmers. These technologies include microdosing of agricultural lime, use of biochar, double row spacing in ground nuts and application of the legume-specific fertilizer 6:20:24+3S+0.5Zn+0.3B, locally known as ‘mwininthaka.’

It was therefore important that farmers should be oriented on these technologies so that they can implement them and increase yields in order to meet the food and nutrition security of the growing population and to satisfy the cash and industry needs of the country.

The Agro-Ecological Intensification Hub was established in 2018 in order to bring together researchers in legumes, soils and farmer participation, with extension and formal and informal farmer organisations to function as a network that supports research to respond to farm variability.