Soil quality: Crucial but often ignored aspect

Agriculture is source of food and income to the majority of our people, and is also the source of raw materials for industries as well as a major source of foreign exchange. Our leaders, therefore, put a lot of emphasis on agricultural productivity for economic development and food security.
Ironically, little emphasis is put on a very precious resource to the farmer, the soil on which crops are anchored and from which they get their nutrients.
It is futile to emphasise agriculture without paying due attention to soil quality.
December 5 was World Soil Day and global attention was drawn to the Montpellier Panel report released a day earlier.

Better practices
This is an extract: “In Sub-Saharan Africa, an estimated 65 per cent of soils are degraded, and unable to nourish the crops that the chronically food-insecure continent requires. Poverty, climate change, population pressures and inadequate farming techniques are leading to a continuous decline in the health of African soils, whilst the economic loss is estimated at $68b per year.
Conversely, better land management practices could deliver up to $1.4 trillion globally in increased crop production – 35 times the losses.”

Knowledge and resources
The report recommends that farmers must be encouraged to practise rainwater harvesting, soil erosion control and intercropping.
It also recommends planting leguminous crops such as beans and groundnuts, which fix nitrogen into the soil and improve nitrogen uptake.
It further recommends the use of organic fertiliser as well as careful application of synthetic fertiliser. But also warns that African soils will face increasing stress due to higher temperatures with the onset of climate change.
Farmers are aised to plant trees that shed their leaves and provide nutritious mulch. It also calls for rendering political support for sustaining land management and commitment to zero soil degradation.
Among other suggestions, it mentions building on existing knowledge and resources on soil science and land management in Africa as well as strengthening soil research centres in Africa by collaborating with international scientists and research centres.

E-mail: ssalimichaelj@gmail.com

SOURCE: Daily Monitor

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