Andermatt, leading Swiss biological agricultural product manufacturer, has set up office in Kenya as it seeks to spread into the region with its portfolio of natural solutions to rejuvenate soils and manage pests and diseases.
The company has set up a demonstration farm in Naivasha, Kenya, where it is producing beneficial insects as well as growing a wide range of crops to demonstrate how nature can be harnessed to improve farm productivity. The Naivasha facility is a breeding centre for beneficial insects.
The main insect currently being produced is the Phytoseiulus mite, which is harvested daily for introduction in farms across Kenya to combat the destructive red spider mite especially in flowers.
“The Phytoseiulus persimilis feeds on red spider mites, and consumes up to five adults or twenty eggs a day providing an effective biological control instead of spraying chemicals”, said Hamish Ker, Andermatt Regional Commercial Manager, in Naivasha during a visit to the facility.
The facility targets to produce up to 20 million phytoseiulus weekly. Mr Ker added that as the world grapples with climate change and food security challenges, it is increasingly becoming necessary to revert to regenerative and sustainable agriculture systems to enhance soil and plant health for safe, improved farm productivity.
Natural solutions will also enhance pest control and plant nutrition, reducing the need to rely on traditional chemical interventions and salt fertilizers, he added. “By using nature’s solutions, we can reduce the need for pesticides which in turn reduces pressure on the environment as well as production costs and makes for a more conducive farming environment.”
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Mr Ker emphasizes the need to focus on healthy crops by introducing natural/biological stimulants. “Healthier crops are less susceptible to attacks from pests and diseases because they have inbuilt ability to fend off external attacks,” he said.
To achieve this, Mr Ker says “we must first start with roots, the foundation of the plant by making it possible for a crop to grow a mass of healthy roots and by doing so make it possible for the plant to easily take up more nutrients from the soil.”
When the plant feeds on a healthy balanced organically charged soil with a rich living microbial population it is able to develop a significant plant mass made up of multiple strong stems or branches supporting many large green leaves for max photosynthesis leading to a healthy and productive harvest.
“And if the focus is on the 60% of Kenya’s smallholder farmers, we can tackle food insecurity and combat climate change. If we can improve the performance of the small-scale farmer, it will not only be good for the farmer but also the country in terms of food security,” he says.
The Andermatt demo farm is growing maize, sukuma (kales), potatoes, beans, tomatoes, wheat, sorghum, sunflower and millet – Kenya’s most popular crops – in a control experiment to show how mass root stimulation and soil conditioning can result in increased productivity with limited investment.
Using the traditional DAP application with various treatments of beneficial fungi/bacteria and selective biostimulants, the crops are already showing a clear difference, and progressively.
Useful fungi and bacteria occur naturally in the environment, and they only need to be applied intensively to the seed or roots with specially selected root health product range so they grow and overcome the disease carrying bacteria/fungi strains which can devastate a farmers crop.