ICRAF Soil-Plant Lab Processed 8,000 AfSIS Soil Samples

by | December 5, 2011
Category: Blog

Here at the Soil-Plant Spectral Diagnostics Laboratory at the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) in Nairobi, Kenya, we have received over 4,000 AfSIS soil samples from sentinel sites and diagnostic trials over the past six months, with a total of over 15,000 samples received since the start of the AfSIS project in 2008. These samples have come from 38 AfSIS sentinel sites and nine sentinel sites for diagnostic trials.

On average about 50% of the samples received have been characterized with infrared spectroscopy and reference methods. The laboratory also provided primary soil processing services for four AfSIS Ethiopia sites, three western Kenya sites, and for diagnostic field trials from three sites.

AfSIS continues to send soil subsamples to Colorado State University and the University of Colorado, for DNA analysis of soil microbial biodiversity. Work is continuing in this area through further support from the Winslow Foundation, and being extended to additional soil faunal sampling at a selection of AfSIS sites with additional funding from the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems.

Training and capacity building

AfSIS laboratory procedures

During the past 12 months the Soil-Plant Spectral Diagnostic Laboratory received 151 visitors, provided exposure to the AfSIS laboratory methods to an additional 191 scientists and students, and gave more detailed instruction and supervision to 15 African PhD and MSc students.

A mid-infrared spectrometer was installed at the Kenya Agricultural Institute and a one-week training course provide to scientists and technicians from 14 to 18 November 2011. Further assistance is being given to KARI to establish an infrared spectral library based on their soil archives. A mid-infrared spectrometer was also purchased for Niger and will be installed din early 2012. Technical backstopping was also given to infrared spectral laboratories in Cote D’Ivoire, Cameroon, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, and Tanzania.

A one-day training programme on AfSIS including a laboratory visit was given to 30 African scientists as part of a Kenya Refresher Course run by the Faculty of Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation (ITC) of the University of Twente, on 2 November 2011.

A seminar on AfSIS soil testing was given to 19 African participants of theInternational master Class for Africa on “The laboratory in the field: the practical use of new technologies in community-based extension”, organized by CABI, on 22 November 2011. A follow-up laboratory visit and testing of a field soil test kit was provided on 30 November.

A PhD scholarship was awarded to Stephen Ichami Muhati from the University of Wageningen on “Downscaling blanket fertilizer use recommendations for smallholder farms in African landscapes.” The study will test population-based sampling of farmers’ maize fields in conjunctions with spectroscopic analytical techniques for establishing soil and plant test critical limits and establishing prevalence rates of nutrient deficiencies.


The Soil-Plant Lab also provided scientific and technical support to a number of projects in application of the AfSIS methods:

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