Soil science broken down by Nick Mati
5 days ago, 07:00
Nicholas Mati, 48, can tell you how well your crop will grow by digging a few inches in the ground. He can also tell you whether that building or road that you are constructing will cave in, crack, flood or last, just by glancing at the type of soil that your construction is based on. Mr Mati, a soil scientist refers to soil as a living material that is as diverse as any other living organism.
Who is a soil scientist?
Soil scientists specialise in the study of soil. There are different studies of soil such as Soil Physics, Soil Chemistry, Soil Microorganisms, Soil Survey and Soil Fertility. I have a Master of Science in Agronomy and I specialised in fertilizer response. I am also looking forward to completing my PHD in a few months. For my undergraduate, I studied Agriculture.
Why the study of soil?
Soil is the only medium where you can grow crops, not to forget that we construct almost everything on it. Knowledge of soil has a great impact in the quality of crop and the yield that a farmer will realise.
It also determines the quality of a road or a building. In fact, the lack of soil knowledge has resulted to loss of life when buildings have caved or tarmac roads have cracked.
How is knowledge of soil beneficial?
It helps to understand soil classification because we have many different classes of soils. In central Kenya and some parts of Rift Valley, we have the Nitosols, a type of soil that is very good for crops such as tea, coffee and other agricultural plantations.
Understanding soil type will empower the farmer to know what type of crop to plant for best yield. Some crop diseases, such as fungi, some bacterial infections and Nematodes-a multicellular animal are also soil borne.
Knowledge of this would mean appropriate soil treatment instead of an umbrella spray of insecticides or application of fertilizer.
What does a soil scientist’s day look like?
Depending on where you are based in your knowledge application, a soil scientist’s day will largely consist of activities like soil analysis in the laboratory, knowledge transfers from research findings to the extension workers or consultancy assignments in line with the science.
I am a consultant on standards- good agricultural practices. Currently, my focus, with a group of other scientists is on global gaps for export farmers.
What are some challenges you face as a soil scientist?
Knowledge transfer is a huge challenge here in Kenya. We have a lot of publications and research findings that would make huge strides in food security and food safety, but there are no concrete systems or resources to interpret this technical knowledge to a language that farmers can understand. We do have extension officers, but they are few and far between.
I am happy to note that we now have a degree in Agricultural Extension being offered in one of our Universities. This will produce experts who are not necessarily scientists but have the in-depth knowledge of Agronomy, and can transfer ...
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