Soil improvement using leaves and leaves extract for the growth of crops

Soil is a significant reservoir for plant nutrients and hence necessary for plant growth. To this regard, soil pH is a very important chemical property of the soil as it dictates the availability of plant nutrients. Soils close to neutral pH are satisfactory for plant growth. However acid and basic soils are unsuitable for most of the crops. Thus pH is a very important factor in crop production. Some of the factors leading to acid soils include continuous cultivation of soil due to scarcity of arable land as a result population growth, use of inorganic fertilizers and climate change and deforestation. Reclamation of acidic soils include addition of calcium (Ca) and magnesium (Mg) salts as well as slag. These have several shot falls such as high cost, frequent addition, do not add all the nutrients required by plants and may contain soil contaminants which can the make soils unproductive or may result in contaminated products harmful to humans if consumed, some effect taking several years before they are discovered. It has been reported that some plant leaves and their extracts reduce soil acidity and add plant nutrients to soils as well as improving soil texture. Preliminary studies have shown that some of these plant leaves and their leaf extracts improve non-leguminous plant growth and reduce soil acidity. There is therefore need to carry up more detailed studies in order to come up with more sustainable and economical ways of dealing with soil acidity, and enhancement of nutrients and soil texture hence soil productivity.

This project proposes to test various plant leaves and their extracts on the growth of both leguminous and non-leguminous crops on acidic soils and subsequently capacity build rural farmers, who are mostly women on how to use the leaves and to grow the plants for sustained and economic agro forestry and thus reducing or doing away with inorganic fertilizers. Soils will be collected from Nyandarua,Murang’a, Nyeri and Meru Counties and their pH measured. Only soils with a pH below six will be used for the project. Plants leaves to be tested include Hellianthusannus (L) (sunflower), Markhamialutea(Benth) K Schum(muu), CordiaafricanaLam (muringa), croton macrostachyusDel (mutundu), Jacaranda mimosifolia D. Don (Jacaranda), manihotesculenta C. Crankz(cassava), Carica papaya L (pawpaw) and VitexkeniensisTurril (meru oak). These leaves and their extracts will be used to grow maize, kales, wheat, coriander, amaranths, tomatoes, potatoes and spinach either singly or in combinations in open fields and in pots. Data collected will be analysed using ANOVA and t-test. It is hoped that leaves and the leaves extract found to increase growth rate and reduce acidity of soil will be planted in areas affected by acidity to increase crop yield and increase forest cover and thus reversing global warming and soil erosion. Farmers will be sensitized based on the results, which will also be availed to relevant authorities for appropriate action. Each of the researchers will willingly and dedicatedly participate in the project from the beginning to the end.A number of workshops will be held to sensitize and train community members on how to make and use leaves and leaf extract to improve soil pH, soil fertility and subsequently quality of life. Quarterly reports and final report of the project will be availed to the funding authority. This project does not have any other funding. The project proposed budget is KShs 1,500,000.

 

Principal Investigator
Prof. Jane Murungi

Participating Researchers
Dr. Ruth Wanjau
Mr. Bernard Chomba Mugo
Dr. Mukiri Wa Githendu

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