Development, adoption and utilisation of fortified fertiliser and bio-fortified seeds in crop production have been identified as a major way to tackle high rate of micronutrient deficiency among Nigerians.
Health scientists and researchers have found that micronutrient deficiency could lead to a weakened immune system, among other health issues.
While speaking at a training programme organised by OCP Africa Fertilisers Nigeria in Lagos recently, a professor of Plant Nutrition, Sabanci University, Istanbul, Turkey, Ismail Cakmak, said deficiency of micronutrients in soil and inadequate dietary intake had caused high stunting higher number of children than in developed economies.
According to him, yearly loss of nutrients on African soil is worth about $4 billion annually.
He said: “Nigeria is the country with the third highest absolute number of children who are stunted globally. The root cause of this is soil deficiency of micronutrients and inadequate dietary intake.
“For Nigeria to reach targets levels of micronutrients in food, the country needs to combine fertiliser fortification with plant breeding. This approach is sustainable and the most effective solution to micronutrient deficiency in food.”
He added that soil is depleted at every plant cycle and nutrients removed by crop plants must be replaced annually, otherwise, a serious depletion problem would occur on agricultural soil, and average yield per hectare would drastically reduce.
Cakmak said low nitrogen in most Africa soil is responsible for micronutrient deficiency, adding that most countries on the continent have acidity problem on soil, which is responsible for low phosphorous retention.
He added that good plant nutrition would help in pest and disease resistance, noting that increase in fertiliser application in the country would increase farm yields.
“By adding agronomy compound to the breeding process in plant, it will help to double the micronutrients requirement for human consumption. There is need for Africa to adopt a holistic approach that is sustainable and efficient in increasing its farm yields. The country cannot afford to wait any longer as its population keeps growing rapidly,” he added.
Also speaking, Managing Director, OCP Africa, Mohammed Hettiti, said it was germane to report human nutrition, soil nutrients and crop micronutrient requirements, saying this would help to improve farm yields and drive growth in the sector
“We will continue to support training for agricultural reporters to help improve their reporting,” he said.