Highlights of soilless agriculture Kabale Farm Clinic

The Seeds of Gold Farm Clinic returns today with the first outreach to the Kachwekano Zonal Agricultural Research and Development Institute (KaZARDI) in the Kigezi Highlands.

Thanks to aeroponic technology, Kachwekano ZARDI promotes the cultivation of potatoes without the need for soil or water.

This modern potato cultivation technology is hailed as a technology of the future as land is becoming limited. The technology is desirable because it can fit anywhere without land.

According to Dr. Alex Barekye, Research Director at Kachwekano ZARDI, with its high scalability, good yields are expected.

“Over time, this will be a popular way to farm in the future,” says Dr Barekye. Nutrients and water are delivered to crops in the form of vapor gas.

The idea of ​​aeroponics dates back to the 1920s when the first trials were made with orchids but it is a developing innovation in Uganda.

Dr. Barekye notes that although this technology can be applied to a wide range of plants, including vegetables, potatoes grow well with this method. Combining tissue culture methods, planting is similar to hydroponics.

Compared to other farming methods, aeroponics takes up less growing space. With a farm water system, nutrients are carefully added to the water, supplied to the plants by a booster pump system. As it is a closed system, it is estimated to save over 90% of water and nutrients. Crop yield can be increased by 45-75% under ideal conditions.

In addition, humidity and temperature are always the most favorable for growth. Depending on the purpose of use, potatoes can be harvested by hand early.

Kachwekano ZARDI, which now focuses on multiplication of plant material, experimentation and trials on different crop varieties and animal breeds, provides extensive research on agroforestry, apples and pears, climbing beans, wheat and barley, sorghum, field peas and sericulture, among others.

Since the early 2000s, apple cultivation has provided opportunities for farmers in the Kabale region and experts will discuss best practices such as establishing orchards, land preparation, planting, induction of dormancy, defoliation, pruning as well as diseases such as powdery mildew, which threatens a number of farmers.

Currently, the Ugandan government is promoting apple production under the National Agricultural Advisory Services (Naads) program in the highlands of Kabale, Kisoro and Kanungu districts.

Farmers attend dairy training at an agricultural clinic in Kabanyolo. Photo/NMG

This aims to meet the growing demand for deciduous fruits. “Apple growing is a great opportunity for farmers to increase their income, but there is a major challenge of insufficient experience among farmers,” notes Dr Barekye.

In order to improve the livelihoods of farming communities in the region, experts will also share their knowledge on the varieties of goats improved at the station and how to get the most out of them.

With experienced goat herders, researchers and animal husbandry experts, the Kachwekano ZARDI Agricultural Clinic will provide a window of opportunity for farmers eager to learn more about the profitability of improved breeds.

Experts will also explore ways to restore degraded soils, a major challenge in the highlands, while looking at improved sorghum varieties. KaZARDI has evaluated 33 sorghum lines for upland tolerance and so far six promising lines have been selected for release. These varieties include; E 1291, Ndamoga, Shokani, MB 29, MB 30 and MB 27, and are being evaluated against the local check variety Kyatanombe.

Kachwekano Zonal Agricultural Research and Development Institute is located in Rubanda District, one of the six districts of Kigezi Region. It lies about 8 km from the Kabale-Kisoro road on the road to Lake Bunyonyi at an altitude of between 1800 and 2200 m above sea level.

The place receives an average rainfall of 875 mm per year with the first rains between March and May and the second rains from September to December with a minimum temperature of 8oC and a maximum temperature of 24oC.

Kachwekano was established by the British in 1937 for the experimentation and demonstration of crops, pastures and livestock of temperate origin. There was the introduction of merino sheep for wool production. Its fine and valuable wool was desirable but it would be discontinued as it would not make economic sense. Later in 1943, nicotine tobacco was introduced to generate money. So far, some farmers grow tobacco in the area, although tobacco marketing is not streamlined.

In 1949, Kachwekano became a district agricultural institute (IFD). One of the functions of the DFI was to provide practical courses in agriculture leading to the issuance of certificates to agricultural assistants and administrators such as parish and sub-county chiefs. This capacity building has equipped local leaders with skills to disseminate technologies that have increased agricultural productivity.

In 1952, the DFI began popularizing local goats and sheep as a source of income for smallholder farmers. However, this activity presented challenges of poor management and lack of pasture. The IFD prioritized other activities although the farmers continued to care for the native goats and sheep. In 1961, exotic cattle breeds were introduced and so far the region has one of the best exotic breeds in Uganda.

In 2000, the institute was placed under the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) as an Agricultural Research and Development Center (ARDC) to intensify agricultural research on commodities for agro areas -ecological highlands.

The main focus was on the multiplication of plant material, experimentation and trials on different crop varieties and animal breeds, animal traction for agricultural work such as plowing and transport, training of farmers and d other service providers. Commodities were mainly focused on agroforestry, apples and pears, potatoes, pole beans, wheat and barley, sorghum, field peas, poultry, dairy products, vegetables and sericulture, among others.

Through these efforts, stakeholders gained knowledge through technology transfer of modern farming methods, there was increased access to foundation seeds and storage materials.

Following the enactment and operationalization of the NARO Act of 2005, Kachwekano became a semi-autonomous public agricultural research institute under NARO.

KaZARDI was created in order to extend services closer to end users.

The institute is made up of satellite stations spread throughout the Kigezi region to extend services closer to the population. For example, in Kisoro there are Maziba, Nyamigogo and Nyabwishenya stations while in Kanungu district there is Kibimbiri station.

The role of the institute has also been changed to conduct applied and adaptive research and to facilitate the dissemination of technologies suitable for adoption pathways. The institute operates under three programs including: Crops and Natural Resources Research Program, Animal Resources Research Program, and Technology Promotion and Awareness Program. Kachwekano ZARDI implements most of its activities through local and international partnerships and collaborations. It has close links with international research centers, other NARO institutes, local governments, NGOs, CSOs and especially farmers’ groups in the area. This will be an opportunity to find out more about what KaZARDI is doing from the Seeds of Gold Farm clinic taking place at the institute today.

Today: Seeds of Gold Farm Clinic

Companies: Irish potato, apple, goat farming, soilless agriculture

Sponsors: Stanbic Bank, Bank of Uganda, NSSF, Naro, NMG

Admission: Free including meals

Main trainer: Dr. Alex Barekye

Kachwekano ZARDI, which now focuses on multiplication of plant material, experimentation and trials on different crop varieties and animal breeds, provides extensive research on agroforestry, apples and pears, climbing beans, wheat and barley, sorghum, field peas and sericulture, among others.

Kachwekano Zonal Agricultural Research and Development Institute is located in Rubanda District, one of the six districts of Kigezi Region. It lies about 8 km from the Kabale-Kisoro road along the Lake Bunyonyi road at an altitude of between 1800 and 2200 m above sea level. The place receives an average rainfall of 875 mm per year.

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