Mzee Jeremiah is a happy man after poaching Muchiri from my farm.
He is now bragging how he has floored me and it is just a matter of time before he becomes the top farmer in Mashambani, thanks to Muchiri.
While I know Muchiri has no capacity to turn his farm around, I am crossing my fingers it does not happen.
However, I am not sitting on my laurels. Last week, in the quest to remain the best source of farming information in Mashambani, I decided to take the game higher by organising a soil testing lesson for farmers.
Adenya, my friend, linked me to one of the companies that does soil testing in the city.
The company staff arrived on my farm in a monstrous four-wheel vehicle, which looked like an ambulance.
I later came to learn that it was a soil-testing laboratory.
“We do mobile soil testing, you don’t have to collect soil samples and send to us in the city,” an officer dressed in a white overcoat told me after exchanging pleasantries.
I can confidently say I have never tested the soil on my farm, yet year-in, year-out, I have been expecting a bumper harvest after applying only manure and fertiliser occasionally.
Mashambani being what it is, word spread faster in the village that doctors had come in an ambulance to treat my animals.
After a sizeable crowd had gathered, the technician explained his mission, which was to collect soil samples, to the amazement of villagers.
“What is soil sample and soil testing?” I asked him, pointing out that he had not introduced himself.
“Sorry, I am William, I am an expert in soil testing and Adenya directed me to this farm here, which I believe is his,” he said while busy assembling his tools of trade.
“I am Mkulima Young, the sole proprietor of Mkulima Mixed Farm,” I said.
“Ohh! Sorry, I thought you are the shamba boy,” he said. Perhaps he was right because I was shabbily dressed.
“Soil testing is the process of collecting soil samples for analyses to determine the nutrient levels, deficiencies, acidity and the general health of the soil,” he started explaining.
Without a break, William continued speaking to us like an evangelical preacher addressing the non-converted.
“As a farmer, with soil testing, you are able to increase your yields since you will apply the correct fertilisers, lime and organic inputs after knowing what the soil lacks.”
“You, therefore, save money since you apply the correct amount of fertiliser and lime,” he continued telling the farmers, who were however admiring the vehicle more than listening.
William took us through the process of collecting soil samples. He emphasised the need for accurate soil sampling as he demonstrated the process on my farm.
“It’s good to sample different soil types separately. One sample should not represent more than one field, as individual fields would have had different treatments in the past. Large fields can be divided for sampling purposes into two or three smaller sections,” he said as he divided my farm into fields, a thing I have never done.
At one spot, he removed crop residue then using a soil auger, he sampled the whole core from the true soil surface to 25cm depth. He then placed each core in a bucket and mixed them thoroughly.
He then took samples of 500g from this mixed representative sample and, thereafter, labelled the bag carefully as Mkulima Mixed Farm, field B, 20cm and wrote maize as the crop I intend to grow.
All went on well until when he suggested to sample and test soil from Mzee Jeremiah’s farm, a short distance from mine.
“Mimi sitaki uchawi. Eti mnasema ni technology? Uchawi tupu!” Mzee Jeremiah retorted.
“We have been growing crops without the soil testing,” he said as he stormed out of the session.
“Soil testing? What for, plant growth is about weather,” Kabecha added as he followed Mzee Jeremiah with a few other farmers.
Those who remained were reluctant to have their soils tested, fearing witchcraft as Mzee Jeremiah had claimed.
William, the soil tester, left a dejected man.