You can tell how much plant food a soil contains by simply looking at the colour of crops in a field. Some field crops look green while some are yellowish. Green crops show that the soil has enough plant food. A yellow crop usually indicates that the soil does not have enough plant food.
Every year farmers buy chemical nitrogen fertilizers for topdressing their crops. But, judging from the many yellow fields in the summer, some farmers seem to have problems getting nitrogen fertilizers. Many times the farmers have no money to buy the fertilizer. Sometimes the fertilizer arrives late.
If you keep farm animals or know somebody who does, liquid manure could help you out. Liquid manure provides nitrogen and other mineral elements that growing plants require, just like the chemical nitrogen fertilizers. And liquid manure does more than that. It also supports the animal life in the soil.
You can make liquid manure from fresh animal dung. Use dung from goats, sheep, rabbits, or other livestock.
Here is how to prepare and apply the manure. Collect 30 50 kilograms of fresh animal manure. Put it in a gunny sack*. Tie the sack securely. Tie a stick that is one metre long to the end of the sack.
With somebody’s help, suspend the sack with dung in a 200 litre drum of water. Use the stick to support the sack. With somebody’s help, move the stick up and down to stir the mixture and quicken the release of nutrients into the water. Do this every three days. It takes about two weeks to get all the nutrients from the manure into the water. The mixture is ready when the colour of the water changes to dark brown. Another way to judge when the solution is ready is by the smell. The first few days there will be a strong ammonia smell. After 10 14 days the smell becomes less pungent.
This mixture is good liquid fertilizer for topdressing growing crops. It can be applied to a variety of crops. It is best to dilute it with water before you apply it. For every portion of the mixture, add either one or two portions of water. Then apply the dilute solution around the base of the plants. Some crops like maize can do with quite strong solutions.
You can use the solid remains remains of the dung as mulch around trees or in the garden. You can also add to compost, but it should not take the place of manure. Though this material has some nutrients, you should also add fresh manure to your compost.
This script was prepared by Livai Matarirano, Coordinator, Farm Radio Network (East and Southern Africa), c/o Africare, P.O. Box 308, Harare, Zimbabwe.
Thanks to Mrs. Coos Groenendijk, Sustainable Agriculture Consultant, Silveira House, Box 545, Zimbabwe, for reviewing this script.
Organic Farming in Kenya, A report of a national workshop for Kenyan Non governmental Organizations sponsored by the Kenya Development, Inc (CODEL), 1990.
Start seedlings with liquid fertilizer / Farm Radio Network Package 21, Script 1.