Assessment of soil fertility and potato crop nutrient status in central and eastern highlands of Kenya.
Inherent low soil fertility remains a hindrance to potato production in Kenya and continues to pose a threat to food security. A study was conducted in Nyandarua and Meru counties to assess the soil fertility status in smallholder potato farms. Soil and plant tissue samples were collected and analysed for selected nutrients (pH, OC, N, P, K, S, Ca, Mg, Zn, B and Cu) from 198 farms. Critical nutrient levels were used to assess the sufficiency levels of nutrients for potato growth. Soils in the sampled farms were weakly to strongly acidic (pH-CaCl2 3.9–6.6) and had low to high soil organic matter content (1.5–97.5 g Kg−1). The percent of farms in Meru and Nyandarua with nutrient contents below critical levels were 66% and 20% for N, 46% and 85% for P, 67% and 31% for S, 9% and 51% for Cu, and 87% and 80% for B, respectively. Low tissue nutrient concentrations were observed for N, P, K, and S irrespective of the sites. Soil pH correlated strongly with majority of the analyzed soil and tissue nutrients. These results affirm the need to design integrative soil fertility management strategies to correct the impoverished soil fertility status in the study area.