Auteurs : A. De Jager, D. Onduru, M.S. van Wijk, J. Vlaming, G.N. Gachini

In the search for Integrated Nutrient Management practices in response to the widely observed soil fertility decline in Sub-Saharan Africa, the potential of low-external-input and organic farming remains to be systematically examined. The nutrient monitoring concept was used to assess the impact of technologies on nutrient flows and economic performance at activity and farm household level in Machakos district, Kenya. The nutrient flows and balances and economic performance indicators of farms practising low-external input agriculture (LEIA) technologies for a number of years were compared with a group of farms practising
conventional farm management. Based upon monitoring two farming seasons, it was concluded that both subsistence-oriented farm management systems result in serious N-depletion and that 60–80% of farm income is based upon nutrient mining. No significant differences could be found between the LEIA and conventional farm management group. Only if LEIA farm management reduces nutrient losses through leaching and gaseous losses can a positive impact on nutrient balance be expected. Off-farm income plays a crucial role, especially in the conventional management group, in keeping farm household income levels above the poverty line. High-level compost application treatments in maize are attractive if labour and organic inputs are available.

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